princbio1We’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?


  1. “who really needs a textbook for more than a semester or two?”

    Doctors, nurses, lawyers, mathermeticians, engineers — there are actually plenty of professions in which people continue to reference certain textbooks throughout their careers.

  2. An interesting move. I don’t get from the article how it copes with the different levels of course, but I am sure that is something they have considered.

    I believe that academic textbooks for High School and College in the US and secondary and University in UK and Ire, are prime opportunities for open source development in the future. The costs that have been shouldered by parents for decades have been nothing short of outrageous and totally unnecessary.

    There is absolutely no reason why Mathematics textbooks, for example, could not be developed internationally on an open source basis by groups of philanthropic maths people. Development could be easily driven by a standard curriculum format for each level or by multiple choice software producing customised levels. And there is no reason why each school or country needs to be different just to be different anyway. The same goes for many other subjects such as the sciences, languages, etc.

    Someone is going to wake up to this one day soon and the ball will start rolling.

  3. I agree, interesting. I also agree most buyers probably won’t use this particular book for very long but it’s the model that interests me. What if you did this for a reference book that would be used for years, maybe indefinitely? Call me crazy but it’s what I’ve thought of doing -more to solve a frequent update problem (and issue errata) than anything. Oh and book size too… a print book I have in mind would be several thousand pages long and far too intimidating to read -of which parts would need to be.

    I will probably buy this ebook just so I can poke around from the inside. You know, get ideas for possible implementation of my own.

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail