Textbooks vs eBooks

Textbooks vs eBooks – What’s better?

1st October, 2019  |  3 minute read


Back to School Booklists can be daunting to look at, especially for parents of Year 7 students who are unfamiliar to purchasing school supplies from a booklist. If the list of new subjects isn’t enough, you might notice a word on your booklist that may appear slightly unfamiliar: eBooks.

Two questions often asked at Lilydale Books are: “What is an eBook?” and “What should I buy – the textbook or the eBook?”

Before we delve into the purpose of this article, it is important to clarify what an eBook is and why it is so relevant.

eBook stands for Electronic Book. An eBook is a digital version of a printed book that may have additional interactive features. eBooks feature an ‘offline’ version of the book, which means it can be accessed when you’re not connected to the internet and an ‘online’ version which requires internet connection. The online version can give you access to material such as videos, interactive questions, assessment tasks and more.

Now that we have established an understanding on what eBooks are, how are these products becoming so relevant? Over the past few years, we have seen and acknowledge many schools transition to blended learning. That is, using a combination of physical textbooks and electronic resources, or in some cases, make the switch to solely using digital products.

Let’s get back to your booklist. While you are perusing through the options listed for each subject, it is important to realize there are certain advantages of purchasing either eBook only products or textbooks and we are going to outline the pros and cons below.

Remember: Most of your textbooks come with an eBook component as well. Inside the front cover of the book will be instructions on how to access the eBook. This gives you the option to use both print and digital. If your text book is second hand, read about reactivation codes for second hand books here.




eBook Only Textbook (with eBook component)
Price eBooks are generally cheaper to purchase (see price comparison chart below). Cannot be onsold. Can be costly to purchase brand new but can be purchased second hand at a cheaper price.* Can be onsold.
Devices eBooks rely on a working electronic device and stable home/school internet connection if reading online. Your physical textbooks will always be a reliable back up when you don’t have a functioning electronic device.
Portability eBooks can be stored on one electronic device. Carrying multiple textbooks can make schoolbags heavy and a nuisance to carry.
Reselling Second Hand eBooks cannot be printed or resold second hand Textbooks can be sold second hand or passed on easily to a sibling or friend
Readability Font sizes and styles can be adjusted whilst reading eBooks Font is limited to what is printed in the textbook
Health Lights emitted from reading eBooks from a device (especially at night) can cause eyes to strain Research suggests information is absorbed and retained easier when reading from print textbooks.
Environmentally Friendly eBooks generally take fewer resources to make. There are more materials involved in the manufacturing of textbooks such as paper, printing etc. This is reduced when reselling second hand books.

* If the eBook component needs reactivating that can be an additional cost, depending on the publisher.


eBooks (On their own)

Price: You will often find a slight price difference between eBooks and traditional textbooks. Due to the elimination of printing fees, paper and shipping costs, eBooks are generally cheaper to purchase. Have a look at the below price comparison:

eBook Only Textbook + eBook Price Difference S/H Textbook through LB Price Difference Ebook vs SH
Jacaranda Maths Quest 7 $44.95 $79.95 -$35.00 $53.30 -$8.35
Cambridge Essential Maths 7 $59.95 $69.95 -$10.00 $46.63 +$13.32
Oxford My Maths 7 $42.95 $67.95 -$25.00 $45.30 -$2.35


Portability: Students would know best how heavy school bags can become when you have to carry multiple textbooks (and how easy it is to forget to take them home in the first place). Left your textbooks at home? It doesn’t matter if you have eBooks. They can be stored on one electronic device, meaning you can bring all your resources with you wherever you go, lightly!

Readability: The font size and in some cases, font style in eBooks can be adjusted to assist readability. With traditional textbooks, you are limited to the sizes and styles printed in the book. Having the option to adjust font size can be very useful for readers who may have some vision impairment.

Environmentally Friendly: eBooks are completely digital products thus manufacturing process of producing a physical book is eliminated. There is no paper, no printing. Some may argue traditional textbooks can be recycled but whilst there is no doubt about that, eBooks generally take fewer resources to make. Therefore, they have less of an impact on our environment.



No devices needed: What happens when the Internet goes down? (Because we have seen how reliable Australia’s NBN is…). If you find yourself without internet or battery in your mobile phone or computer, you won’t be able to download or access your eBook. Your physical textbooks will always be a reliable back up when you don’t have a functioning electronic device.

Reselling: Physical textbooks can be sold as second hand. This is unlike eBooks that generally cannot be resold or distributed. If purchasing a second hand textbook, you can access to the eBook again if it has been accessed already. Reactivation eBooks can be purchased through Lilydale Books at a reduced price. You can give your second hand textbooks a new life by selling them on consignment at Lilydale Books, or privately through your school or on social media. To find out more about selling your textbooks through Lilydale Books, click here.

Information retention and health: Research has suggested that print books are superior to eBooks when it comes to absorbing the information and remembering what you read. Furthermore, reading from a print textbook is much kinder on your eyes as it is not emitting lights which can interfere with your ability to sleep.

Traditional Feel: At the risk of sounding biased, nothing truly beats the feel of a good sturdy textbook and flipping through its pages. They are easy to share with a friend and can be picked up again and again without the risk of expiry.


Our recommendation

Having established all the facts about eBooks vs Textbooks, what is our recommendation? Both eBooks and textbooks have unique advantages and benefits. Take price into consideration when making your decision. If the cost difference between a textbook or eBook only comes to $10 or less, we recommend purchasing the textbook. You will have access to both physical and digital versions of the book. You’ll also have the option to resell it second hand the following year.

Other things to consider are:

- Internet stability. eBooks rely on a stable internet connection to function properly. How is your internet at home?

- Editions. Is the book a newer edition? If a textbook has a few years of life before an updated edition is released, you have a good chance of selling your book as second hand at the end of the year. eBooks cannot be on sold.

- Students Preference. Consider your student’s learning style: Are they tech savvy? Do they prefer reading from a hard copy book?

- Devices. What device will your student be using? Is it capable of storing large sized eBooks as well as other required Apps.

- The Subject. Maths textbooks are generally around 400-500 pages, your iPad or smaller size devices might not have the speed or memory capability to support quick scrolling.

Take a moment to consider all the possible benefits of eBooks and textbooks to help you make a more informed choice when purchasing for your student. Ultimately, the decision comes down to you and your student.

If you have further questions that you would like Lilydale Books to answer please get in contact with us 03 9739 6186 we would be happy to help.


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Educational Ebooks
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Textbooks vs eBooks
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Pros and Cons