An etextbook is a textbook available in a digital format that can be read on an e-book reader, smartphone, or computer. For many students, etextbooks are a convenient, cost-effective way of accessing the educational materials that they need. The digital format also provides users with a great deal of flexibility in how and when they can use their etextbook. Furthermore, the extextbook format makes it easier for publishers and authors to update material, eliminating the need for schools and instructors to constantly replace obsolete textbooks with new editions.
For many students, buying textbooks at the beginning of the school term is a significant investment in both time and money. Even worse, student bookstores often run short of books, leaving hapless students distraught about the materials they need to complete their coursework. With the ability to download any textbook directly from its publisher or an online bookstore, students can avoid the risk of books selling out before they are able to purchase them. Etextbooks may also be considerably less expensive than standard textbooks, making it easier for students to afford their education costs.
The ease of etextbook access is another advantage to the use of digital textbooks. Students, particularly those who live off-campus or who have very busy schedules, no longer have to lug around multiple heavy books in backpacks or tote bags. Instead, they can simply call up the textbook in question on their reading device or portable computer. Studying with an etextbook also has its advantages, as the student can easily study for any class that utilizes etextboooks as long as he has access to his reading device or computer. Most etextbooks can be easily searched for specific content, and many reading devices allow students to take notes and highlight content freely throughout the book.
For faculty, the etextbook also has several advantages. Faculty who might otherwise not assign useful textbooks because of concern about their availability or cost may be able to do so if the book is available as an etextbook. As publishing an etextbook is not nearly as expensive as publishing a paper textbook, previously out-of-print books may become accessible again to students. In addition, out-of-print books that are in the public domain can often be downloaded free of charge. In disciplines that are subject to a considerable amount of change, etextbooks simply make more sense, as they are easily updated and there is no concern about getting them shipped or stocked in the bookstore before classes start.