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D-Lib Magazine
September/October 2009

Volume 15 Number 9/10

ISSN 1082-9873

It's Time for Wider Acceptance of e-Textbooks

In colleges and universities here in the U.S. and around the world, a new academic term is just getting underway, and in an increasing number of classes, students will be using electronic textbooks (e-textbooks), many for the first time. As indicated by the title of a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, "This Could Be the Year of e-Textbooks, if Students Accept Them."1

Fourteen years ago, when I was completing my library and information science degree, a hotly debated class topic was whether electronic books would ever replace printed books. Considering the rapid pace of technological development in the intervening years, it is somewhat surprising that there hasn't already been wider acceptance of electronic books – especially e-textbooks – than exists today.

E-textbooks offer many features and functions unavailable with printed textbooks. In addition, e-textbooks cost less and are supposed to be more environmentally friendly. There is a learning curve involved in switching from printed textbooks to e-textbooks, but most of today's college freshmen are already tech-savvy or at least tech-aware. For them, the learning curve should not be too steep.

Most e-textbook devices have been improved over the last few years, but some could still benefit from improved software and design. Publishers have had legitimate concerns about illegal downloading and sharing of electronic content, and measures to prevent that should be devised and implemented. These measures must not, however, reduce the usability of the e-textbooks by rightful owners.

Because the printed book is such a perfect technology, print books will surely continue to be produced and purchased, especially for leisure reading. But the time has come for greater use of e-textbooks for educational purposes. Efforts should be made to overcome the remaining obstacles to their broad acceptance.

Bonita Wilson


1. Young, Jeffrey R., "This Could Be the Year of e-Textbooks, if Students Accept Them: Many titles are available, but students are wary," The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 7, 2009. Available at <>.

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