Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pearson in Custom Textbook Test

Inside Higher Ed are reporting a program Pearson is launching with a community college in Arizona (Rio Salado College - heard of it?) that will enable academics to build custom textbooks including content from non-Pearson sources. According to IHE,
Professors can pick from among the books in Pearson’s library as well as outside sources in preparing their custom textbooks. For works not published by Pearson, there’s a limit of 10 percent of the contents, but the company will then handle copyright clearance. Freed said the ability to include journal articles and extra readings amounted to “a super-textbook, if you will.” A spokesman for the company, David Hakensen, said that the agreement with Rio Salado is unique for covering an entire college, but he noted that individual faculty at many colleges have used Pearson’s custom publishing services for their own classes.
Custom publishing has been part of the fabric of academic publishing for many years but this appears to be a twist on an old play. With easier rights clearance via CCC perhaps this program will expand rapidly particularly in disciplines where the content changes frequently due to world events. The Australian equivalent of CCC (CAL) was barnstorming the US a number of years ago selling the concept of an on-line rights clearance and custom publishing solution that enabled the creation of textbooks from multiple sources all with rights appropriately cleared, a index and toc created, pages reformatted and sequential page numbering. It was an interesting proposal which was tried and tested in Australia but didn't get any traction here. Interestingly, CCC didn't take the bait either.

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