If you haven't discovered ebooks, the concept may leave you wanting to ditch all those bulky, dog-eared textbooks you've been lugging around for years.
Ebooks are digital versions of books, and can be downloaded from the internet or bought on CD-Rom. They can be read on laptops, PCs, Macs, dedicated handheld readers or PDAs (personal digital assistants - palm-sized computers), and even some new mobile phones offer this facility.
Having an electronic version offers a number of benefits over traditional paper-based books. Not only can you print pages when you need to, but they can be searched in the same way as a word-processor document, allowing you to easily locate specific words or passages. But it doesn't stop there: they're easy to store; they're robust and don't deteriorate over time; in many ebook readers you can annotate the text without permanently damaging them; they're never out of print or out of stock, and they're cheaper and more environmentally friendly, as no paper is used to produce them.
Ebooks can be enriched with photos, video or sound clips and animation. On top of this, modern classroom technology, such as whiteboards and wireless internet connections, mean they can be shared with the whole class and can contain active links to resources on the internet.
Before you can view ebooks you need a reader - a program that allows you to look at them. The most widespread of these are both free: Microsoft Reader (downloadable from www.microsoft.com) or Adobe Acrobat Reader, which allows you to view PDFs (portable document format). This format was developed as a way to allow documents to be viewed by different devices without changing the way they look. Your computer should already have a version of this installed. If not, go to www.adobe.com.
Ebook textbooks are catching on. Jim Riley of Tutors2u, which has produced an AS-level economics virtual textbook, says: "Just over 400 schools and colleges have subscribed this year. It sells for pound;2.50 per student, compared to pound;30-35 for the equivalent paper-based textbook."
You can also create your own ebooks, and some schools are turning to this as a source of revision material. "We find this makes revision a little more interesting," says one teacher. "Our ebooks contain a 'recap' of theory that the students have looked at, with links to activities on our website and interactive quizzes to check their understanding of the work."
For now, the future of the textbook seems secure, but for how long?
* A source of ebooks in the US http:etext.lib.virginia.eduebooks
* Ebook resources www.e-learningcentre.co.ukeclipseResourcesebooks.htm
* Ebook ideas