Electronic books have changed the way many people read for pleasure.
Now online textbooks are changing the way some students learn and some teachers teach.
More than one hundred seventy-five thousand students attend the public schools in Fairfax County, Virginia, outside Washington.
Last year, the school system used digital books in fifteen schools.
This school year, middle schools and high schools changed from printed to electronic textbooks in their social studies classes.
Luke Rosa is a history teacher at Falls Church High School.
His students work on school laptop computers.
He explains the idea to them this way: "It's just like a regular textbook, except it's got it all online." Peter Noonan, an assistant superintendent of schools, says with electronic textbooks, publishers can quickly update the content.
"The world's changing consistently. And the online textbooks can change right along with the events that are happening."
Online books also cost less than printed textbooks. "Usually it's in the neighborhood of between fifty and seventy dollars to buy a textbook for each student, which adds up to roughly eight million dollars for all of our students in Fairfax County.
We actually have purchased all of the online textbooks for our students for just under six million dollars."
Many students like the idea because it means they do not have to carry a textbook around. Also, they can write notes on their work and save the notes in their account.
But one student complained that the Internet connection does not always work.Social studies teacher Michael Bambara says the e-book he uses in his government class is better than a printed textbook.
He likes the way it has materials for students with different reading levels. "So a person can individualize their learning and I can individualize their instruction." But the students also need Internet access when they are not at school.
About ten percent of students in Fairfax County do not have a computer or online access at home. Public libraries in the county have free Internet. There are also after-school computer labs as well as computer clubhouses supported by the county.
Other school systems in the area are considering online textbooks.
Officials in Prince George's County, Maryland, plan a test project next year. A survey showed that forty percent of students there do not have computer access at home.
We have a video about online textbooks at voaspecialenglish.com. For VOA Special English, I'm Carolyn Presutti.(Adapted from a radio program broadcast 02Feb2012)