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3/7/2013
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Boundless Seeks Court Ruling On Free Online Textbooks

At stake is the future of a free online alternative to expensive college textbooks, says open-source textbook maker.

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Tablets Rock On: Education Tech Through The Ages
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Boundless, an online open-source textbook maker being sued by traditional textbook publishers, has asked the judge in its case to rule on whether its current products infringe on the claims.

Boundless has argued that it is being sued for a beta version of its product that is no longer available. Ariel Diaz, founder and CEO of the Boston-based startup, said that "the entire litigation is focused on that one-year-old dead product." A declaratory judgment could limit potential damage to Boundless if the court rules against it in the current case.

The request is the latest move by Boundless in a case brought against it in March 2012 by Pearson Education, Cengage Learning and Macmillan Higher Education. The suit alleges that Boundless copied their intellectual property, specifically the way they organize and present their materials, as well as four other counts. Boundless last June asked the court to dismiss two of the counts, false advertising and unfair competition. In January, the court denied Boundless’ request. In February Boundless asked the court for a jury trial.

[ For more on how textbooks are moving online, read E-Textbook Pilot Puts College Books In Cloud. ]

Diaz said that its current products are not part of the suit, or any other. Boundless has added features such as flash cards and subject quizzes and interactive study guides not available in print textbooks. He said Boundless had asked the plaintiffs whether they think its current products infringe. "They hadn’t looked at that. But they do believe the old project should impact the future of Boundless," Diaz said.

Counsel for the three publishers was not immediately available for comment.

At stake is the future of a free alternative to many leading textbooks used in college courses, which can cost up to $300 apiece. The high price of college textbooks has created a call for open-source textbooks. Boundless is not the only company attempting to change the market for education textbooks. Its product, however, is designed to map to the chapter outlines of popular textbooks such as Campbell and Reece’s Biology.

Boundless now offers online open-source textbooks in 18 subjects. It has released 18 open textbooks via the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license. It says that students on more than 2,000 college campuses are using its texts.

Diaz said that outside of the suit, "things are great." He said the company was continuing to develop new offerings and features such as community study guides.

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