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CourseSmart brings college textbooks to iPhones

Tired of lugging a hundred pounds' worth of overpriced, environmentally unfriendly books? The new CourseSmart app squeezes all the e-textbooks you want into your iPhone.

College textbooks are way too expensive, way too heavy, and way too tree-consuming. Electronic textbooks, on the other hand, cost less, weigh nothing, and leave forests alone.

You'd think Amazon's Kindle would be the logical place for e-textbooks to make their mobile-device debut, but CourseSmart's new eTextbooks app brings them to the iPhone and iPod Touch instead.

Specifically, eTextbooks is a companion tool for CourseSmart's textbook subscription service, which makes over 7,000 titles available for download or online viewing.

The app itself is free, but it displays only those books you've "subscribed to" (i.e., rented), and only when you have an active Internet connection. What's more, this version doesn't let you add or edit notes, but that's on the coming-soon list.

You can, however, view notes you've added via your PC. The app also supports keyword searches and lets you skim books by finger-flipping through thumbnails of each page.

Long bouts of reading might prove cumbersome, as the app doesn't reflow text to fit the screen the way, say, the Kindle app does. Each page is more or less a static image, much like a PDF. You can zoom in, scroll around, rotate into landscape mode, and so on. If only Apple offered a tablet-sized iPod Touch!

OK, college students, what do you think? Is this the best thing since bar night, or is the iPhone/Touch screen too small to make e-textbooks practical? Speak your mind in the comments!