My son's school has two versions of Geometry, which he will take next year. One version uses an online textbook. The other doesn't, in other words, it uses a ___________. What word or phrase may I put in the blank, aside from "old-fashioned paper and cardboard" or "actual book"?

Sample usage (must not be deprecating tone):

From your explanation of the difference between R and H Geometry, I would have thought R would be a good fit for my younger son. But then I read that R uses an online text and H uses a ______________ book. He has had a lot of trouble using online resources. I step away for three seconds to let the cat out, and he's opened another tab and is watching Monty Python, NBA basketball, or what have you. It's part of his OCD.

E.g. "an actual book" conveys my idea but I'm hoping for something more graceful.

  • 2
    "Physical textbook" as opposed to "digital textbook"
    – Hank
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 17:28
  • 1
    Paper vs digital is the common comparison you often read or talk about : google.it/…* - so I'd use the expression "paper book".
    – user66974
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 17:31
  • @Josh - "paper book" doesn't sound good, somehow. Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 17:44
  • 2
    Paper Books Vs. eBooks: The State of the Art of Reading - huffingtonpost.com/suren-ramasubbu/… - Are Paper Books Better Than E-Books? - learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/09/25/…
    – user66974
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 17:46
  • 1
    Depending on your eco-credentials, you might call the physical copy a dead tree edition, as per About 1,470 results in Google Books. Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 19:14

2 Answers 2


I work for a publishing company, and we call our online books "e-books" and our printed books ... well ... "printed books." (So I concur with @Josh 's comments above.)

This Wikipedia article has a suprisingly complete explanation of e-books and their evolution:

An electronic book (or e-book) is a book publication made available in digital form, consisting of text, images, or both, readable on the flat-panel display of computers or other electronic devices. Although sometimes defined as "an electronic version of a printed book," some e-books exist without a printed equivalent.

So, I would write that one sentence in your paragraph like this:

But then I read that R uses an e-book and H uses a printed book.

(Note the article an, not a, before e-book.)


Various possibilities; among the more common are hard copy and print (or printed) textbook).

  • +1 for hard copy. Hardcopy/softcopy are very commonly used to distinguish between physical and electronic versions of documents in the working world.
    – stevesliva
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 22:50

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