As one of the modern phenomena of the information age, electronic books have caused a rapid progress in educational media since the early 1990s. Emergence of concepts such as electronic books and electronic learning into the field of education indicates development of education and creation of the possibility to learn for everyone anywhere and anytime.
Landouni and Diaz (2003) believe that electronic textbooks are counted as educational tools prepared in an electronic way, which assist in teaching methods and learning. In fact, electronic learning provides easier and wider access to information for education as it makes coordination and collaboration between experts and students and shows more rate of success compared to the conventional method as well. However, it should be noted that such a use of modern media in field of education requires financial support, skilled work force, and change in roles. In the past, electronic books had the similar or more prices compared to printed ones. Recently, the prices have decreased taking a positive step towards the use of electronic books. Undoubtedly, letting people use electronic books will be much more economical and less time-consuming than making them use printed ones.
Considering its increasing growth of electronic books in several educational fields, these resources are counted as one of the purposes of distance education, several aspects of which can be studied. For sure, success in use of electronic books in Payame Noor University's virtual education system requires us to conduct some studies on foresight and assessment of needs in this regard. Therefore, the present research tries to investigate the role of electronic books in Payame Noor University graduate students' learning rate. Investigating the effect of use of electronic books on both virtual and conventional programs students' academic progress in a simultaneous way, the present research is distinguished from the other studies already done in this field.
There have been a large number of studies carried out on the performance of electronic books in learning process and its changing role of these resources compared to that of printed ones. The viewpoints stated indicate the lack of agreement between critics and proponents of electronic books.
Readers of electronic books are able to search for their favorable topics more easily and rapidly compared to those of printed ones (Shelburne, 2009). The possibility of accessing to desired content as well as the lack of need for physical presence in library, time-and energy-saving and, sometimes, users' costs-savings are popular among readers of electronic book. In addition, students like advantages such as possibility of moving through the text, flexibility, possibility of saving a lot of resources in cell phone hard disk as well as the possibility of using electronic ink for recording subject matters and notes and prefer them to printed books (Gibson & Gibb, 2011).
A large number of researches have been already conducted to investigate the effect of electronic books on academic progress and students' interest in studying; but, what distinguishes the present research from the other similar ones is that it investigates the effect of electronic books on students' academic progress and, at the same time, compares it to that of printed books. This may assist relevant officials in making their future decisions so as to more and better use this technology or to limit it.
Conducting a research on 600 students of management information system, Rozel and Gardner (2000) suggested that use of electronic resources has a direct and meaningful effect on students' academic progress. Through a research, Sen (2005) explored the effect of electronic resources on students' academic progress. Findings revealed that students' computer skills efficiency has a positive and meaningful effect on perceived usefulness. Minard and Mcknight (2006) conducted a research on students' interaction rate with electronic books. In most cases, participants reached the required interaction for using electronic books and gained more complete understanding of the materials existing within the book. But, there is no significant difference in speed of studying the materials between the two groups. In his research paper, Al-Harbi (2001) tried to investigate the factors affecting electronic learning acceptance at higher education level in Saudi Arabia. The results indicated that students' capability of access to internet and computer skills efficiency have a meaningful effect on behavioral...