A digital textbook is a digital book or e-book intended to serve as text for a class. Digital manuals may also be known as electronic manuals or electronic texts. Digital textbooks are a major component of technology-based education reform. They can be used as texts for a traditional face-to-face course, online course or diploma, or Massive Online Courses (MOOC).
Digital textbooks have many potential benefits. They can offer lower costs, make it easier to track student progress, and are easier and cheaper to update when needed. Open source electronic textbooks can offer the possibility of creating free, editable textbooks for basic subjects, or giving individual teachers the ability to create electronic texts for their own classrooms. They can offer better access to quality texts in the developing world. For this reason, many schools and universities around the world have made the implementation of digital textbooks a central element of educational policy. For example, in South Korea, reading materials in all public schools will be digitized by 2015. In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission aims to ensure that every student can access electronic texts by 2017. However, the transition to textbooks is expensive, complex and controversial. Students express a strong preference for printed materials in many surveys and in different cultures. Many interconnected factors, from access to digital literacy devices to teaching methods, affect the implementation of digital textbooks in the classroom. Issues of global value, book quality, confidentiality and intellectual property have not yet been resolved.
Because digital textbooks must be accessible via an electronic device, such as a laptop or electronic reader, schools and colleges need to determine how to provide access to all students. Many school districts now offer one-to-one technology programs in which a tablet or laptop is delivered to each student. This ensures that all devices meet the same requirements (such as memory or software) and that all devices can be networked, monitored, and upgraded together. However, the individual model also imposes significant costs on school districts and raises issues of confidentiality and personal use. An alternative to one-to-one is to ask students to use their own electronics in the classroom. It’s called Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) or sometimes Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT). BYOD allows students to choose their favorite device to study. Compared to one-to-one, it lowers technology and maintenance costs for institutions. But the devices of all students may not be compatible with digital textbooks for a class, and devices may not be able to network with each other. A BYOD approach can also count students who can not afford a computer, an electronic reader or a smartphone.
A major selling point for digital textbooks is that they offer students the ability to access multimedia content, such as embedded videos, interactive presentations, and hyperlinks. Tests and other assessments can be included in the manual, classmates can work together, and student progress can be tracked. The touch screen technology offers students the opportunity to participate in projects, research or experiments. This may offer a different learning experience than or better than printed textbooks. Digitization also promises to provide better access to textbooks for students with disabilities. For example, high-contrast displays or text-to-speech programs can help visually impaired students use the same textbooks as their classmates. Creating interactive and customizable content is an important part of developing digital textbooks. However, interactive digital content is expensive to produce and research on learning outcomes is still in the early stages.
The concepts of open access and open source support the idea of open textbooks, free digital textbooks (free) and easy to distribute, modify and update (free). Schools, teachers, or teachers can design their own open textbooks by gathering scholarly open-access articles or other open-source resources in a text or curriculum. Open textbooks offer affordable access, especially to basic and common information, and challenge traditional textbook models. Textbooks that are editable or edited by the community may also be difficult to establish as credible or scholarly sources. Other models for publishing digital textbooks are more traditional. Textbook publishers can offer standardized digital textbooks or digital classroom curriculum that are easier to update and conform to national standards, teaching methods or objectives. This approach also offers pitfalls. License or renewal fees for digital textbooks may impose unexpected costs on institutions. For example, in 2013, the LA Unified School District announced that it would face an additional $ 60 million for the authorization of the curriculum for its one-to-one iPad program.
Although many governments and school districts invest heavily in digital textbooks, adoption is slow. According to data from Bowker Market Research, in the spring semester 2013, only 3% of students used a digital textbook as their main course material. In many studies, large majorities of students, adolescents, and children continue to express a preference for printed books. In addition, there is conflicting information about how digital textbooks affect learning, cognition and retention. However, students are increasingly exposed to digital textbooks, and new research suggests that student performance is about the same as students work from digital or printed text.