Digital textbooks go straight from scientists to students


A year ago, electronic textbook publishers turned down David
Johnston’s big idea: the first interactive marine science textbook.

Johnston, who runs a marine biology lab
at Duke University, wanted the digital tome to show undergraduate
students what his scientific field has to offer. But e-book publishers
said the subject matter was too niche and the requested features too
expensive to make financial sense.

“When we approached them, they essentially told us we were too
small,” Johnston said. Frustrated by the experience, Johnston set out
to create open source software to publish the book himself.

“We are not going after the biology 101 iPad textbook. We are not trying to build the
digital textbook for chemistry,” Johnston said. “We’ve created a
simple tool for specialized subjects where there isn’t a textbook, and
knowledge advances quickly. Being an open source effort gives
academics the flexibility they need.”

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