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Learning at Home - Digital Textbooks

by Paul Nisbet

on Fri Jun 12, 2020

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Learners who use technology to read and access text need their textbooks in a digital format - so where can we get digital textbooks? Find out in this blog.

Many learners with additional support needs have difficulty with ordinary paper textbooks and learning materials. Perhaps your son or daughter has a visual impairment, so they need larger text sizes; or perhaps it's a difficulty with reading, so they need a digital book and a computer text reader, or perhaps they have a physical disability which means it's hard to turn pages and handle the paper book.

All of the learners can be helped by using a digital book on a device. So where can we get digital textbooks?

Books for All

Our Books for All web site has digital textbooks that can be downloaded for learners with a 'print disability'. It's free, and Robert here in CALL has just added a facility to make it easier for teachers to give learners access to the books they need. Here's a video showing how it works.


RNIB Bookshare

RNIB Bookshare has a huge collection of textbooks and fiction from almost every UK publisher - now over 500,000. It's also free, and there's a new way for parents to get access directly without having to have an account set up by the school.

National Accessible Library

The National Accessible Library has books in a range of formats and is open to anyone with a print disability. It mainly has fiction titles.

What is a 'print disability'?

Copyright legislation means that books from these services can only be given to learners who have a print disability. This means anyone who "has a physical or mental impairment which prevents the person from enjoying a copyright work to the same degree as a person who does not have that impairment". This may be due to:

  • Visual impairment
  • Dyslexia

  • Learning difficulty

  • Autism

  • Physical disability

You do not need to have a diagnosis of a disability to be print disabled.​

Learners with English as an Additional Language or learners who have low levels of literacy are not regarded as having a Print Disability (unless they are disabled as defined above) and so cannot use books from these databases.


So where can I get digital textbooks for learners who aren't print disabled?

Even before the Covid-19 lockdown, some schools were struggling to buy sufficient paper copies of textbooks, and now that the same class set can't be shared amongst several classes, what can we do to provide textbooks at home?

While many teachers create their own learning materials and are switching to other mediums such as online videos and  resources, Tim Oates, for example, argues that high quality textbooks still have a very valuable role to play in education.


Most fiction titles published in the UK are available as eBooks and so if you might search on Amazon, Apple Books, Google Play or Kobo. Or, you should be able to borrow them from your local authority eBook lending library.


Many textbooks publishers sell digital versions which are available from the eBook sellers above.   Some sell eTextbooks directly on their web sites, and some schools have bought subscriptions to eTextbooks. There are too many publishers to list them here, so if you want to buy a digital version of a particular textbook try doing a search on the internet for the title or the publisher. The digital versions are usually cheaper than the print versions.

Tags: covid-19, learning at home, technology, asn

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