A recent article from Inside Higher Ed discusses Symtext, a company taking an interesting approach to the future of the textbook market. Symtext attempts to answer student, publisher, and faculty concerns with their highly customizable “liquid textbook” platform. The Symtext solution will give publishers the opportunity to separate their content and price each component—whether it be whole chapters or significantly smaller portions—individually. This will provide faculty with the means by which to search through these chunks of content and assemble a custom digital textbook. Students will benefit from a customized textbook that will be “free from the Unread Chapter Tax.” If properly implemented, Symtext believes it can create a “win-win-win” situation for these three parties.
“Professors can pick only the content they want, the content can be mixed media, and collaborative tagging, community and advanced search tools can help the professor discover the best-of-breed content. Students only pay for what they will use, and can receive and consume their content on the platform of their choice (Symtext is developing iPad/iPhone platforms and print-on-demand options to complement their existing browser delivered format). And publishers (and authors and other content creators) can price and receive revenues for chunks of content, and be paid each time the content is used.”
Symtext’s success will depend upon publisher and writer interest in this new business model. According to the article, the company has had some success helping publishers overcome their reluctance to share content to build a large enough database.
More information can be found on the Symtext website. Symtext has also produced an informative white paper that is worth a read. It is available via this link.