Skip to content →

Textbook Options

Textbook formats and features depend on what the publisher makes available. Below are some details, including advantages and disadvantages, of different kinds of textbooks.


Some textbooks are still available in this traditional format. Print textbooks are usually available to purchase through a number of outlets, including campus bookstores, online vendors, and individual sellers. Some print textbooks are sold with a one-user login to access supplemental content online. While print textbooks may lack some conveniences of digital textbooks, they give students more control in saving costs. Print textbooks can be shared by multiple people more easily than a digital book. They can be sold or given away to someone else at the end of a semester, and previous editions may be used. In addition, some students feel they learn best reading a print book.


Some textbooks are available as electronic texts. Digital textbooks have convenient features such as the ability to search the full text, highlighting and note taking. These e-textbooks are sometimes available both for sale or for rent, often at a lower cost than purchasing a print copy. In many cases, these books cannot be downloaded but only be accessed on the publisher’s web-based platform. Digital textbooks cannot be sold at the end of a course.

Access Codes

Sometimes publishers offer digital content that corresponds with a textbook, such as automatically-graded assignments and quizzes, lecture slides, and supplemental videos. Students purchase an access code, which is specific to them, often in addition to renting or buying the textbook. Access codes cannot be sold at the end of course and they cannot be shared among multiple students.

Open Textbooks

Open textbooks are an example of open educational resources (OERs), which are teaching and learning materials that are freely available online. Open textbooks are available in a number of disciplines, some are peer-reviewed.

Skip to toolbar