Whatever Happened to Digital Textbooks?

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

The promise of students carrying lighter backpacks accompanied the promise technology advocates and educators made in shifting from printed to digital textbooks (also called e-books).

A few years ago, I predicted that digital textbooks would be common across school districts. While there have been some movement toward switching to digital textbooks, I was way off in my prediction.

What happened?

What are digital textbooks?

In most cases, they are digitized versions of printed texts. These digitized texts are licensed so they are sold to districts and can be downloaded from publisher websites to school, teacher, and student devices.

Promoters of digital textbooks point to the following advantages:

“Cost – Although e-readers may come with a fairly large price tag, the savings between digital and traditional textbooks adds up quickly.

Faster Searches – Instead of thumbing through pages of text, students can find the passages they are looking for with…

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