A textbook is a book that strives to teach a student about a particular discipline, usually academic, and they are usually divided into chapters based on subject area.
Most textbooks are published only in hardcopy, although some can be viewed online. In U.S. colleges, textbooks are usually chosen by the professor teaching the academic course. In most U.S. K-12 schools, a local school board votes on which textbooks to purchase.
Textbooks for K-12
Termed School books, these are texts written for use in academic settings. Lower schools, especially kindergarten through 12th grade, more often refer to texts as school books. Text book is a synonym, but is more often used to describe books used by upper level classes.
School books emerged as teaching instruments with the invention of the Gutenberg press. Early schoolbooks were used by teachers, who relied on the books for lesson guidance. Later books were printed for children, and became the primary teaching instrument for most children since the 19th century.
Many university students complain of unreasonably high textbook costs, sometimes $100 USD or more. They often claim that this represents price gouging on the part of the publisher. Furthermore, they say that often a publisher will print a new edition of a textbook solely to make the older editions obsolete; this temporarily eliminates the used textbook market, thereby boosting the publisher's profits.
Publishers say that textbooks are indeed as expensive to produce as their prices indicate. Textbooks have a very limited market—almost exclusively college students who need the book for a course—and would be unprofitable to produce if they were priced any lower. Additionally, textbooks are often thick, printed on heavy paper, and printed in color, all of which dramatically increase their cost.
Sometimes students and parents claim that certain textbooks have been selected for use because of factors irrelevant to their teaching efficacy. The most common complaint at the university level is that professors will use a textbook written by themselves or their colleagues. At the K-12 level, it is sometimes alleged the school board members and other school officials have been bribed by publishing houses in exchange for buying textbooks from that publishing house.
While textbooks are in principle objective, there are sometimes accusations that a textbook has been written to support or suppress a particular point of view about a certain subject. Usually the disputed subject is controversial in its own right. Examples include creationism and distasteful periods in national history, such as the treatment in Japanese textbooks of Japan's invasion of China and Korea in World War II. These controversies may lead to lawsuits as one side tries to force its viewpoint into textbooks or eliminate opposing viewpoints from textbooks.
- Wikibooks  (http://wikibooks.org) - A sister project to Wikipedia whose goal is to create textbooks.