Is there a difference between textbook and technical book? Are they different or is there any overlap between them?

For example, consider Introduction to Algorithms. I think this is a textbook.

Now consider The C++ Programming Language. I think this is a technical book but not a textbook.

How can we accurately define textbook and technical book such that it becomes easy to classify books into one of these two categories?

  • 2
    "Textbook" is fairly well-defined. "Technical book" is vague.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 8 '20 at 19:24
  • When you looked in a dictionary for "text" and "technical", what differences did you find?
    – Greybeard
    Sep 8 '20 at 19:45
  • 1
    Why can't a book be in both categories? Sep 8 '20 at 20:44
  • For context, 'textbook' is a word in a dictionary. 'technical book' is not a set phrase, that is it is no more than a book that is technical.
    – Mitch
    Sep 8 '20 at 21:35

A textbook is a book published with the intention of being studied as part of a class. It could cover any kind of material: math, physics, other sciences, a foreign language, grammar of your own language, history, etc.

A technical book is a book that covers a technical topic. In my experience this mainly includes the physical sciences and engineering. Exactly what range of sciences are considered technical (biology? anthropology? sociology?) is a matter of interpretation, but I believe they are more often not considered "technical books".

You may find technical books used as textbooks for teaching technical topics, but not every technical book is a textbook, and not every textbook (especially outside the physical sciences) is a technical book.

How can we accurately define textbook and technical book such that it becomes easy to classify books into one of these two categories?

You can't. Many books are both. Many books are neither.

  • @jsw29, agreed. I think I can even simplify it more than that, as in my new edit.
    – The Photon
    Sep 9 '20 at 17:50

This question seems to relate mainly - but not only - to scientific material. The terms overlap but are not purely identical.

In scientific usage a textbook usually sets out some or all of ideas, concepts, pervasive generalities, illustrative examples, questions, exemplary answers, unsolved problems, appreciation of difficulties, extensive explanations, student exercises, and references. It is written in a way designed to develop a subject in a progressive and instructional manner, exhaustive of a defined field of endeavour, to give not only competence in a subject but also understanding.

A technical book - which I agree is a vague term and one that occasionally overlaps with textbook - sets out similar material but the emphasis is often less on teaching and learning, and frequently has more emphasis on being an authoritative work for those who are already initiated rather than being an instructional work for the student.

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