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Textbook Publishers Settle Suit Against Boundless, Digital Start-Up Company

Three big textbook publishers and Boundless, a digital-textbook start-up company, have reached a confidential settlement of a lawsuit that the three publishers filed last year, when they accused Boundless of distributing “‘replacement textbooks’ that are created from, based upon, and overwhelmingly similar to” textbooks from the companies—Pearson Education, Cengage Learning, and Macmillan Higher Education.

The publishers’ suit alleged that Boundless had boasted that “they copy the precise selection, structure, organization, and depth of coverage of plaintiffs’ textbooks and then map in substitute text, right down to duplicating plaintiffs’ pagination.” Boundless argued, however, that the publishers were suing over beta-version material that was subsequently withdrawn and replaced by offerings built on open educational resources.

Ariel Diaz, the Boundless founder and chief executive, said in a blog post on Wednesday that the company “now has a clear path for building and marketing its OER-driven textbook alternatives without treading upon the plaintiffs’ rights, and it is confident that it is in compliance and will not have further legal issues with the plaintiff publishers.” The publishing companies, he added, “look forward to Boundless operating its business within the agreed-upon framework,” though he did not say what that was.

A new “teaching platform” that Boundless unveiled this month promises educators who want to abandon traditional textbooks that they can “make switching easier by building from Boundless content pre-organized to match the book you currently assign” or can “drag and drop” content to create customized texts. The company says its experts source “high-quality content from the best online educational resources on the web … including Saylor.org, OER Commons, and Connexions, as well as Wikipedia.”

Customized textbooks cost students $19.99 each, while texts already in what Boundless says is a library of offerings in 21 subjects are free.

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