"A traditional textbook is a vehicle for content delivery but for many students, that vehicle is quickly becoming a horse and buggy," said Branch, R-Dallas.
He hoisted to his shoulders two bulging backpacks to illustrate the heavy loads many pupils carry to and from school.
Branch then held up a Kindle reader, which allows users to load books wirelessly.
"I hope someday they'll be able to leave their house going to school carrying this kind of device, not two backpacks," he said.
No House members spoke against the bill, though Branch said some textbook publishers unsuccessfully tried to delay when it would take effect. He insisted it apply to next year's scheduled round of new books for English, reading and Spanish courses.
Some social conservatives have criticized the bill, saying it could impose barriers to parents who want to know what their children are learning but aren't adept with computers. They also say there's little solid research showing students learn better with e-books or more technology in the classroom.
"Do laptops or technology in the classroom raise academic achievement? No!" GOP activist Jim Cardle wrote in an e-mail Thursday, urging conservatives to defeat the bill.
Branch argued that current rules waste money.
Schools in the Irving district, one of about two dozen chosen for a pilot program to give each student a laptop, are still required under state law to buy paper books, which they store in a warehouse. Schools are reluctant to issue textbooks to each student because after six or seven years, when districts are supposed to send outdated textbooks to the state for disposal, they have to pay the state for lost or unaccounted-for books.
Branch also stressed that the bill would not allow "frivolous technology-equipment purchases."
E-books would have to be approved by the state education commissioner and conform to curriculum standards, he said. Equipment bought with textbook funds would have to "be driven by approved content," Branch said. And each classroom would still have at least one set of paper or electronic books.
Similar legislation pushing e-books and technology has passed the House but died in the Senate twice in the last six years. But Branch said his bill doesn't force school districts to buy the new products, as did earlier versions.
This year's bill, he said, "allows flexibility and allows our school districts to make the decisions."