The latest thrust of eBooks is toward the education market. These eTextBooks has some unique requirements as related to standard eBook Readers. Please tap the "What links here" entry in the left column to find other articles that link to Textbooks.
Textbooks are a logical target for the eBook market but only recently (2011) have actual textbooks appeared in abundance. This new emerging market provides additional features and unique requirements. Some of these include:
- DRM that includes the ability to rent books, which means the book needs to expire similar to the implementation of eBook Lending Libraries. Renting a book is different from checking out a book from a Library in that it is usually possible to extend the rental or even purchase the book at a reduced price so long as the extension or purchase is done before the rental expires.
- The need for real page numbers so that assignments and references can be made. This means that many smaller portable readers are not as useful since reflow does not relate well to fixed page numbers. Currently PDF is the main format but proprietary formats like AZW4 and VBK as well as others are also being used. Fixed layout ePub would also fall into this category. ePub 3 defines a method for mapping physical page numbers to the eBook version.
- The need for annotation capability so students can highlight and add comments in the eBooks themselves.
- Links for index lookup, and ready reference are needed.
- specialized formats like MathML and SVG are useful for technical books. SVG is part of ePub 2. MathML is part of the ePub 3 requirements.
- Searching within the book is needed.
- Dictionary support is important for textbooks.
- eResources and companion documents should be available and supported. Many courses supplement the textbooks will additional resources and in some cases custom instructor notes. Methods should be available to permit electronic versions of these items to be tied to the course material.
- Figures need to be readable and accurately represented. The eBook reader may need to be able to zoom in on a figure to show the detail needed.
- Figure references are likely to need hyperlinks to aid in finding the figure itself.
- Footnotes need a method of representation that may vary due to the type of footnote.
For the most part dedicated reading devices have not been the target platforms for textbooks. Instead applications running on PCs and Macs have been used as well as some Web Tablets. Of course general reading devices can be used for novels and the typical reading requirements for English classes. These are often in ePub, PDF, or MOBI format. The textbook reading applications can often read these formats as well as the specialized eTextbook format.
Often Textbook implementation are targeted at specific sized devices and use a fixed layout like the Fixed layout ePub. Of course some formats like PDF have always supported fixed layouts and thus are well suited for textbooks. Many technical manuals are already using PDF. However, the vendors of eBook readers seem to want to build their own formats with their own DRM scheme to force the user to use their products. Amazon goes so far as to offer AZW4 format by packaging a PDF in their DRM format. See EDUPUB for the educational ePub 3 initiative.
See eBook reading for children for hardware and software that meets the needs for younger readers.
 Readers for textbooks
The following programs or devices are specifically targeted for eTextbook reading and study. In general you will need to get your textbooks from the same company that makes the reader.
- NOOKstudy for Windows and Mac OS X
- Kindle for PC and Kindle for Mac
- The Kno for iPad and iPhone
- VitalBooks for Windows, Mac OS X, iPad and iPhone.
- Course Smart optionally for iPad, iPhone, and Android. A Windows or Mac OS X computer is always needed. They support eResource and companion material from their list of approved publishers. Off-line use requires Firefox 3.6 or later.
- Cengage eBrain uses Course Smart reading software. They use sPDF (secure PDF) format with Sealed Media (Oracle) DRM software as a plugin. This software is required to access your electronic content and can be licensed to two computers. Their software runs on Windows or Mac OS X however they do support viewing and notetaking on an iPad and viewing only on an iPhone or Android. (Viewing of notes created on a PC, Mac, or iPad is ok.) They use the term eChapters to describe their eTextbook content. Off-line use is possible for up to 60 days without rechecking it out. Account users can view the first chapter of an eBook or eChapter for free. CengageBrain.com currently supports sales to US, EMEA (Europe, Africa, and the Middle East) and Latin America customers only.
- Nelson Brain is similar to Cengage eBrain and provides eTextbooks for Canada.
- jetBook Color provides specialized features and resources for eTextbook use.