Ebook guide: Teaching with ebooks

Information for teaching staff

What is an e-textbook?

E-textbooks are a subset of ebooks, with this status determined by the book's publisher.

Digital versions of print textbooks (where publishers have sold multiple copies of books directly to students for a specific course) are likely to be deemed e-textbooks, an approach intended to protect the publisher's revenue stream. These e-textbooks may include additional interactive features such as assessments, quizzes, lecture slides or social media channels that facilitate student interaction, or they may be part of a complete course teaching package.

Publishers generally do not make these interactive textbooks available for purchase by libraries; instead they are sold only to individuals. Those that do sell to libraries charge per enrolled student, making the cost prohibitive within library budgets.

Sometimes books are also described as e-textbooks on the basis that they appear on a reading list somewhere in the world, without any impact on the way in which they can be used. The publications of major publishers such as Elsevier and Springer fall in this category.

The majority of ebooks purchased by the Library are bought to support research and the learning experience across different disciplines, and are not classified as e-textbooks.

Should I put ebooks or e-textbooks on my reading list?

To a large degree that is up to you.

In courses where you would expect students to purchase a print textbook, moving to an e-textbook can provide benefits in terms of cost and interactivity. However, the Library may be unable to purchase a copy of an e-textbook to support students who have difficulty in accessing a personal copy.

If your reading list refers your students to several Library-held ebooks, supplemented with reference to digital readings, you are unlikely to encounter the publisher restrictions that usually apply to e-textbooks.

Are all ebooks listed on course outlines classified as e-textbooks?

No. Most ebooks are not e-textbooks.  If you don’t wish to use an existing e-textbook, or cannot find one that is suitable for your course, you can choose a standard ebook as a textbook. It may be that this title has been assessed by the publisher as better suited to research and thus less likely to be used as a teaching resource. If you are one of the few to assign the title as required reading it is unlikely to be regarded by the publisher as an e-textbook.

How about customised e-textbooks?

Some academics partner with publishers to select chapters from different books and present them as a single 'text' for their subject.

These customised e-textbooks are only available for purchase by individual students, and cannot be bought by the Library.

Hear what your colleagues have to say about ebooks

Example e-textbooks