Clarifying the Confusing Terminology of Digital Textbooks

Clarifying the Confusing Terminology of Digital Textbooks

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8300-6.ch003
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Generically, a digital textbook serves as a source of knowledge in a digital learning environment. It can be taken anytime and anywhere on almost any devices optimized for digital learning. Users of digital textbooks are teacher(s) and student(s), including life-long learners who use digital devices for learning. The recent challenges indicate that digital textbook use and development have become a hot area of cross-disciplinary research. The research problems arise, first of all, from controversies between traditional curricula and access to global content, that deals with the availability of more diverse forms of information, new technologies, interactive assessment and open source textbooks. However, the “digital textbook” concept does not yet have one established meaning. Rather, multiple partly consistent, partly contradictory definitions and usages exist. This chapter provides a framework for clarifying the confusing terminology of digital textbook initiatives. To arrive at this framework, the author explores the interdependences between textbook, digital (text) book and educational software concepts and proposes a synthetic definition.
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A digital textbook serves as a source of knowledge in a digital learning environment. The source of knowledge relies on a content that can be both printed and digital. In addition to printed textbook, digital textbooks can include multimodality, interactivity and adaptability through “video clips, animation, virtual reality, etc.; and formulates them with various interactive functions for students to study according to their characteristics and academic levels” (Kim & Lee, 2012, p. 91). Digital textbooks are stored in a campus store or in e-repository. The e-repository refers to a storage location, usually in a cloud, and its use as a synonym for term “digital library”. There are multiple forms: a digital repository, a virtual (digital library), and an e-store (bookstore):

  • “A digital repository is a secure online database that houses digital versions of most authorized grades 4 to 12 student basic textbooks for language arts, mathematics, social studies and science” (Alberta, 2013).

  • A virtual (digital) library is a library with multiple collections stored in a digital media format and is accessible via computers or digital devices.

  • E-store (known also as online shopping, online retailing, e-shop, web-shop, web-store, online store etc.) is a form of electronic or mobile commerce, which allows buying and delivering digital textbooks over the Internet through sites, platforms or apps.

Digital textbooks can be rented or purchased. Distance education students can select and have delivered their desired textbooks online by ordering from catalogue or Textbook Option Brochure. Users have instant access to the titles on Android tablet, smartphone, iOs device and on the web. One of the most used repository is iTunes Bookstore - a software-based online digital media store operated by Apple Inc. Such libraries provide open or limited access to their resources. The examples of digital libraries with open access are LibriVox, Runiverias, Aozora Bunko, NOOK Kids Store, Children E-Book etc. On the other hand, many publishing houses provide limited access to their resources: Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, Springer, Elsevier, RSC Publishing, Wolters Kluwer/Ovid, Taylor, Francis etc. Rivero (2013, p. 12) argues that the leader in the digital textbook realm would be Apple, but companies like McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt have actually “turned the page” with multitouch available through the iBookstore. “iBooks Textbooks for iPad which provide full-screen experience filled with interactive diagrams, photos, and videos. Students can immerse themselves in images with interactive captions, 3D objects, and quiz themselves with chapter reviews. With a finger swipe, they can flip through their “books” and highlight text, take notes, run a search, locate definitions, and basically get lost in their studies”.

Research has shown (Gu, Wu & Xu, 2014) that the increased widespread use of e-Textbooks in education has been anticipated because of its flexibility, accessibility, interactivity, and extensibility. However, the anticipation has not come to fruition. Although e-Textbooks have drawn wide attention, the missing standards of learning content and functionalities and barriers in the use of e-Textbooks (i.e., screen reading, licensing restrictions) are among the problems that require solutions. Also, is not clear how digital textbooks affect teaching, learning and assessment.

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