February 25 – March 4, 2010 Edition

Macmillan Introduces Distinctive Digital Textbook Platform

NEW YORK, NY/AUTHORLINK NEWS/02/23/10—Macmillan Publishing this week launched Dynamic Books, a new digital publishing platform and line of interactive books, designed to combat the high price of textbooks and the threat of digital piracy.

Using the new platform, professors can easily customize content and present it for download, online access or print-on-demand editions. The new line, initially offering 20 titles, will be launched August 1 and will grow rapidly to 100 titles or more. A $150 traditional print textbook will cost about $47 for the digital Dynamic Book edition. Students can access the Dynamic edition online or download it to a laptop, an iPhone or eventually to Apple’s much anticipated iPad. The books will be available directly from Macmillan and the Dynamic Books web site and through college bookstores. Students can store their books in an online library offered by the publisher.

Dynamic Books, a subsidiary unit of Macmillan, has been in development for two years together with digital textbook publisher Vital Source and its sister company, Ingram’s Lightning Source.

Clancy Marshall, general manager of the new subsidiary, said a survey of students and professors showed that students are unhappy with textbook pricing and professors dislike revised editions. In addition, textbook piracy has become a major concern.

Dynamic Books’ interactive and downloadable textbooks will enable individual professors to modify, delete, or add text, comments, or even video and audio. Also, professors can keep their customized versions as long as they like.

Marshal said Macmillan’s textbook authors do not object to the concept of customized textbooks, because personalized content and revised sections in the Dynamic Book will be clearly labeled as such and bear the instructor’s name. In addition, Macmillan’s editors and textbook authors will review the best of the revisions and include them in formal updates to the text every six months to keep material current without issuing a revised edition. Marshall described the feature as "open source without the scary part of just anybody changing the text."

Professors whose revisions are included in official updates will be eligible to receive a $1 royalty when texts with their additions are purchased. Dynamic Books also allow students to print out a limited number of pages or purchase a POD version of the Dynamic Book with their professor’s customized comments in a black and white bound print edition for half the print price or a full color version for the full print textbook price.

Macmillan will initially offer its own books in the Dynamic Book platform, but the company plans to seek other publishers to use the platform. The company says the new platform may change the way textbooks are conceived and written.

The web site Resource Shelf reports, however, that the system may frustrate some users because such digital platforms have their own interfaces and formats that the companies control. Advanced e-textbooks from one company are not compatible with other companies’ platforms, and each system has its own quirks and a learning curve for students and professors. “We think this could make for a lot of headaches for both students, faculty (including librarians), and staff,” the article by Jeffrey Young said.