We’ve mentioned Nature’s on-line learning project Scitable before. Now TechCrunch has a feature on a new, related project from Nature: an on-line biology textbook that costs $49 and comes with lifetime updates so it will never become obsolete to someone who purchased access.
Rather than an app or e-book, Principles of Biology will be presented as a website, accessible from any Internet-enabled device. This will also make it more accessible to screen readers and other devices that special-needs readers already use for working with computers day to day. There will be some DRM on the project, but Nature feels the most important way of stopping piracy is to provide value-added services that make the legitimate product much more useful than a pirated version could be.
Remembering how expensive my college textbooks were, and how much inflation has kicked in since then, $49 is a great price for a textbook of any kind—digital or paper. The fact that it updates for life just makes it that much more worthwhile.
Though, on the other hand, lifetime updating may also be gilding the lily: after all, who really needs a textbook for more than a semester or two?