[This article is about textbooks in higher education. - JL]
"Boundless is aptly named. Where other dot-com start-ups might have crumpled up their virtual tents and disappeared in the face of a lawsuit filed by Pearson Education, Cengage Learning, and Macmillan Higher Education, Boundless co-founder and CEO Ariel Diaz continued the discussions for 18 months until he and his legal team reached an agreement with the plaintiffs that kept his firm in business.
"The lawsuit accused Boundless of infringing on the publishers' copyrighted materials, as a blog analysis by educational technology consultant and former Cengage employee Michael Feldstein explained. Thesettlement, filed in mid-December 2013, had several outcomes, Feldstein said. First, Boundless would stop marketing its books as "Boundless versions" or "copies" of their textbooks. Second, the company would stop "aligning" its products to the ones it hopes to replace without permission and stop using the plaintiffs' book images in its own marketing materials without permission. And it would pay the plaintiffs $200,000 apiece.
"The company, which launched in 2010, offers an alternative to traditional textbooks. It creates its textbooks from open content: public domain materials, such as United States government-created works or books that are out of copyright; open educational resources available from sources such as connexions that allow their materials to be used by others without fee, including commercially; and third-party independent Web sites that also use open licenses, such as Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia of Earth. The company uses subject experts to develop a broad outline for the textbook to determine the key topics to be covered and to pull the content together. Then "multiple experts" review "every single individual piece of content" before publication, said Diaz.
"The textbooks — 500-plus at this point — are available free in digital form for 20 subjects, from accounting to writing. Those are covered under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, which lets anybody — including potential competitors — use the contents as they choose, as long as the new creation is distributed under the same kind of license."