Canvas: Getting Started with VitalSource Bookshelf

VitalSource Bookshelf provides all students in a course with access to an eTextbook on or before the first day of class. The Bookshelf external tool is available for any Canvas course using an eTextbook adopted through the Inclusive Access program managed by the University of Minnesota Bookstore. Campus-level integrations provide customized Bookshelf tools for Twin Cities, Crookston, Morris, and Rochester courses.

For instructors

Adopt an eTextbook through the Bookstore's Inclusive Access Program

At least three weeks before the start date for your class, send an email to the University of Minnesota Bookstores ([email protected]) to inquire about adopting a textbook. After you make the decision to adopt a textbook, the publisher will enable the book for use in Canvas, and the Bookstore will send you an email confirmation with a Virtual Bookshelf ID number (VBID). Once you receive the VBID number for your eTextbook, follow the steps below to add a link to the eTextbook in your Canvas course.

Add a link to your eTextbook in Canvas using the VitalSource Bookshelf Tool

  1. Log into your Canvas course and click the Modules button in the course navigation menu
  2. On the Modules page, click the + button to the right of an existing module.

    add a module item
  3. In the dialog box, select External Tool from the dropdown menu.

    select External Tool from dropdown menu
  4. Choose the Bookshelf Inclusive Access external tool available to your campus.
    1. Scroll to the bottom of the dialogue box to view the URL and Page Name fields.

      TIP:  Expand the the dialogue box by dragging the lower right corner of the box.

      Choose Bookshelf Inclusive Access from list of external tools
    2. At the bottom of the dialogue box, note that the URL field displays
    3. Add a slash (/) followed by the VBID to the end of the URL.  

      TIP 1:  Copy and paste the VBID to avoid typos.
      TIP 2:  Make sure there are no leading or trailing spaces in the URL

      EXAMPLE: If the VBID is 0074009900852, the final URL will look like this:    
    4. In the Page Name field, enter a title for the book that students will recognize.
    5. Check the box for Load in a new tab and click the Add Item button.

      Modify URL, Page Name, and Load new tab options
    6. Publish the link you added to the Module.

      publish the module item
    7. Click on the link to access the book. The first time you access a Bookshelf link in Canvas, you will be asked to log in to your Bookshelf account. 
      1. Click the Continue button on the Sampling an eTextbook screen to acknowledge that you are receiving a complimentary copy of the book.
      2. Enter your email address and click Continue.
      3. If you have already created a Bookshelf account, enter your password. Otherwise, follow the prompts to create a new account.
    8. Once you have accessed the book using the link in Canvas, you will be able to access the book using any of the following options:
      • Click on the link in Canvas,
      • Sign in to Bookshelf directly at,
      • Use the Bookshelf Desktop App (100% offline access), or
      • Use the Bookshelf Mobile App (100% offline access).

Additional resources

For Instructors

To adopt an eTextbook through the University of Minnesota Bookstore Inclusive Access program, send an email to [email protected].

For help with the Bookshelf application, send an email to the VitalSource Customer Enablement Team at [email protected].

For Students

VitalSource Customer Support

For technical help, visit the VitalSource Support website or call 1-855-200-4146.


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