What are Digital Textbooks?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Digital textbooks are electronic versions of traditional print textbooks used in schools and colleges. In addition to the normal features found in a conventional textbook, the digital textbook often provides additional audio and video resources to help the reader assimilate the information contained in the text. While digital textbooks have been around since the 1990’s, technological advances since that time have made the option of using digital textbooks more attractive than ever.

Digital textbooks refer to electronic versions of traditional print textbooks that are used in schools.
Digital textbooks refer to electronic versions of traditional print textbooks that are used in schools.

The earliest digital textbooks were more or less an electronic reproduction of print textbooks. The page displays were basically identical to the pages in a standard book, complete with any diagrams and photographs that would accompany the same text in a standard schoolbook. One important difference that emerged early on was the ability to search the text quickly without relying on an index or a table of contents. By simply using the search feature found in most of the standard operating systems of the day, it was possible to enter a word or word string and progress through each one of the results until the desired information was located.

Since those early computer textbook designs, the functionality of digital textbooks have expanded greatly. Currently, there are versions on the market that provide the ability to expand images, cue up audio recordings of selective portions of the text, and jump through the electronic pages with ease. Search features within this type of modern textbook are much more sophisticated than in years past. Some versions even offer the ability to display two separate pages from different chapters side by side for easy reference.

As the popularity of digital textbooks has grown, many textbook products also allow for the creation and submission of digital homework using an online interface. The student can even complete the homework while offline. All that is necessary is to save the completed assignment in a digital format incorporated into the textbook software. Once the student is back online, he or she can submit the digital homework assignment via email or through a protected network.

At present, there are several textbook publishers who are offering digital textbooks along with the traditional print versions. In some cases, a free digital textbook is included when any print copy of the text is purchased. The features contained in the digital versions vary from one publisher to another. However, as technology has made it more cost efficient to produce digital textbooks that are feature rich, texts that are ideal for use with junior and senior high school students are now sporting features that are much like those included in digital textbooks produced for use in colleges and universities.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including EasyTechJunkie, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


When purchasing books for my sons first year in college, I noticed several different options and digital books was one of them. He is so used to doing much of his work on the computer, but I didn't know if using ebooks for college would be the best way to go.

I understand the advantages of using them and can see that this will probably be the way of the future for many books. With the popularity of e-readers for reading books and newspapers, it only makes sense that this will be common for college textbooks also.


I tried using a digital college textbook for the first time last semester. I didn't know if I would like it or not, but use an e-reader for personal reading, so figured it wouldn't be much different for a college book.

It is also nice not to have another big book to carry around in my back pack. This worked out well for me, so I decided that anytime I have the opportunity to purchase a digital version I will use that instead of the traditional.


My college bookstore offers some of its books in digital versions. When I did price comparisons I found that you could save some money by purchasing the electronic textbooks over the traditional print books.

This can be one way to save some money on your college textbooks. If you take online classes, you are used to doing a lot of your work on the computer any way, and this is an easy transition to make.

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