Digital Textbook Start Up

February 2, 2009

A textbook start up seems unrelated to search. It’s not. You can read about Flatworld, an open source variant, set up to make money with educational materials here. The company wants to offer online books for free. Hard copies carry a price tag.Glyn Moody, who wrote “Flatworld: Open Textbooks” for Open…, made this interesting comment:

It’s too early to tell how this particular implementation will do, but I am absolutely convinced this open textbook approach will do to academic publishing what open source has done to software.

Dead tree educational publishers take note. Change is coming and really fast. Gutenberg gave printing a boost. Online gives a new publishing medium a similar shove.

Stephen Arnold, February 2, 2009


3 Responses to “Digital Textbook Start Up”

  1. Dan Oja on February 4th, 2009 11:31 am

    Hi Stephen.

    As someone who has been heavily involved in the textbook industry for many years, including authoring and development of digital publishing solutions, I definitely agree that digital publishing is going to change the textbook industry–and eventually the entire publishing industry.

    It’s going to take a while, but I’m quite sure it will happen, perhaps not in the next 2-3 years, but almost certainly in the next 5-10 years.

    I’m not so sure if open source textbooks will take off. Any instructor who has tried to write and maintain their own course materials will tell you that maintaining a current textbook requires a significant amount of time and energy. That’s why most instructors prefer to purchase textbooks rather than write their own materials.

    Large open source software development projects have succeeded, but I’m not sure if there sufficient numbers of capable writers and educators willing to spend significant amounts of time creating or updating open source textbook content.

    I also believe that the digital textbooks of the future will go far beyond the capabilities of current e-books and PDF files, expanding our definition of a “book” to include multimedia, Web links, learner feedback, assessment, instructor tracking, etc. Such features provide a very rich learning environment and have proven very popular with instructors and students alike, but require even greater development resources.

    The cost of creating the interactive digital “books” of the future will be significantly greater than the cost of creating the basic paper or PDF or HTML textbooks of today.

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