eBooks vs. Textbooks

Instructor: Carrie Soucy
Ebooks and textbooks each have benefits, but both also have drawbacks. To determine which is the right choice for you, read on to learn about the pros and cons of each, overarching factors you should consider, and alternatives to both.

Ebooks vs. Textbooks: Five Important Factors to Consider

1. Impact on Planning and Instruction

Ebooks can be helpful to educators on several levels. First, given that states have different educational standards, ebooks allow teachers to choose books that are best tailored to their own state's expectations - rather than trying to find ways to make existing textbooks meet changes or updates to their state standards. For more on factors teachers should consider when choosing textbooks, check out this short lesson on Selecting Textbooks for Literacy Instruction.

Another ebook benefit for educators is, with many ebooks, teachers may be able to keep better track of student progress through a variety of interactive features. The interactivity factor is also cited as a benefit to student learning in math and science courses, where students may be able to easily access problems and equations that directly relate to texts and take notes as they read. Additionally, ebooks are beneficial for any students who have vision problems, as text size is easily adjustable on most ebook readers. This lesson on Using Ebooks in the Classroom offers more insight into how ebooks may be useful to teachers.

2. Distractions, Retention and Comprehension

Students may be more likely to get distracted when they read from ebooks than they do when using textbooks. Many students, for example, report a much higher likelihood of multitasking when using ebooks. Studies have also shown that, when reading ebooks, readers are more likely to skim texts, which can lead to lower retention. When using textbooks, on the other hand, readers often associate information with the layout of the page and location within the book, which assists them in comprehending texts. This is much more difficult within the ebook format.

2. Student Preference

While today's tech-savvy youth find ebook technology familiar, which may encourage those who otherwise don't enjoy reading, students don't necessarily feel that ebooks are preferable for school work. At the college level, for example, surveys show that students overwhelmingly prefer textbooks.

3. Currency and Currency

One of the major benefits of ebooks is cost: the price of ebooks is considerably less than similar textbooks. Another benefit: it is easier for schools to integrate newer, more current texts using ebook technology, compared to using textbooks that, in many cases, quickly become outdated.

4. Ease of Use

As with any technology, ebooks usage means new concerns that do not factor into the use of traditional textbooks. Primarily, when contemplating ebooks vs. textbooks, educators must take into consideration the possible technological hurdles that may arise. Does the classroom have enough outlets to charge the batteries of ebook readers? How will the teacher handle problems that arise with a device's interface? Finally, given the flexibility of ebooks (for example, text sizing), different passages within the same text may appear on different pages for students, which can make classroom coordination more cumbersome.

5. Personal Impact

For some students, ebooks may cause negative physical side effects. These can include disrupted sleep patterns and eye fatigue. On the upside, ebooks eliminate the need for students to carry multiple, heavy books between home and school or from classroom to classroom.

Textbook Replacement & Companion Courses

As an alternative to both textbooks and ebooks, check out's Textbook Replacement or Textbook Help courses. The replacement courses can be used in lieu of actual textbooks, and the help courses can be used as companions to current textbooks that are being used in the classroom. These courses feature fun video lessons that can keep students engaged and entertained while also learning. To help track progress and understanding of the material, each course features practice quizzes and exams, along with printable worksheets. These resources are accessible at all times by computer or mobile device, like a smartphone or tablet.

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