Textbooks, as printed physical volumes, have been a mainstay of K-12 education for years. The rise of the Internet, however, together with a growing array of devices designed to access it, are creating electronic alternatives — e-books — that promise to change the way students are taught, study, and interact with teachers, fellow students, and the world at large.

An e-textbook can be more than just a computer-readable version of a printed textbook (some of which now come with CDs).  E-books can allow:

  • Users to change the look and feel of the text — often a particular advantage for students with poor eyesight or other reading difficulties.
  • Users to highlight sections of the text, to write and save notes, and even to share ideas with classmates.
  • Users to access interactive Internet resources.
  • Publishers to update material.
  • Teachers to highlight, rearrange, and even edit material for class use.

Additionally, E-books are not heavy, are difficult to lose, and are often less expensive — even free.

The downside, of course, is that e-books require computers or other devices in order to use them. But this disadvantage is quickly dissipating with the proliferation and declining costs of both computers and mobile devices.

As with other technologies, the primary factor determining the effective use of e-books remains the teacher and the integration of e-books into that teacher's curriculum. One useful source on this subject is the Digital Reader: Using E-Books in K-12 Education published by the International Society for Technology in Education.

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