There’s a bunch of freely available education content on the web, so why not round it up and cobble it together into virtual textbooks? That’s the idea behind Boundless, a Boston-based company that turns open-source content into free textbooks that serve as alternatives to the big-name textbooks assigned by college professors.
The company makes money by selling $20 premium versions of each book containing interactive quizzes, flash cards and other features to help you study. The premium offerings are just rolling out today, along with an iPhone app. The books work in web browsers as well, including tablet browsers.
Boundless has content for a wide range of college subjects, most of it for popular entry-level courses where traditionally-assigned textbooks would have spanned multiple editions already. You can cross-check any books you’ve been assigned and Boundless will return comparable matches from its own collection.
If you’re wondering if traditional textbook publishers might have a bone to pick with Boundless, you’d be right: The company is currently being sued by three of the major players. “That’s not a surprise that they’re trying to fight innovation,” Boundless founder and CEO Ariel Diaz told me last week when I visited company headquarters for a briefing.
Diaz says that the response from students has been positive, though, and that professors are generally sympathetic to the financial implications of buying books. “The introductory textbook is our focus, and professors understand that they’re pretty much all the same from a content standpoint,” said Diaz. “The problem is, they don’t have that many options besides the textbooks from the top-five publishers who control 80% of the market.”