A different challenge to publishers

From Insider Higher Ed, an interesting article on the startup “Boundless Learning”, which endeavors to provide text-like materials to students free of charge.

“It does so, essentially, through reverse engineering — identifying widely used textbooks in certain fields (three last year, seven now) and then stitching together the best freely available material it can find and presenting it to students as an alternative (without charge, at least for now).”

I’m not sure I like this model (and I can understand why the textbook publishers are suing them), but I see this approach as further evidence that the traditional, high-expense model of publishing is crumbling.

Among the interesting items in this piece, I was particularly intrigued by the college textbook market being estimated as a $4.6B (as in billion) annual industry, and the statement that approximately a third of college students choose not to buy the textbook for their course at all.  The latter figure sounds questionable to me, but there is no question that textbooks form a major expense to students and that for many students who struggle financially, it may be an expense they strive hard to avoid.

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