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Electronic textbooks that transform how textbooks are used

Ryan McFall (Department of Computer Science, Hope College, Holland, Michigan, USA)

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Article publication date: 1 February 2005




This paper's goals are to motivate the design of an electronic textbook that seeks to transform how textbooks are used inside and outside the classroom. In particular, it seeks to show that merely creating an electronic form of an existing paper textbook is not a sufficiently motivating condition for instructors and students to move from paper to electronic textbooks, and doing so misses much of the opportunities presented by electronic media to enhance learning from textbooks.


An electronic textbook application running on Microsoft's TabletPC operating system was implemented and used as the primary text in three offerings of an Introductory Computer Science course, with one section used as a control group. Student learning was assessed via course examinations and overall grades, and student perceptions and use of the textbook were assessed via surveys.


No significant differences in student learning or textbook usage were observed between students using the electronic and paper versions of the textbook. The surveys indicated a generally neutral reaction to the electronic textbook.

Research limitations/implications

The number of students used to evaluate the electronic textbook's effectiveness was small, and the text was not evaluated in multiple types of courses.

Practical implications

Instructors often teach and assess students in such a way that reading the text is not required for success. If instructors continue to assign textbooks, a way must be found to motivate their use and improve the way students use them.


This paper gives guidance to those seeking to design and implement electronic books in an educational setting.



McFall, R. (2005), "Electronic textbooks that transform how textbooks are used", The Electronic Library, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 72-81.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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