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The Many Forms of Digital Text

The term “textbook” no longer necessarily means a sturdy bound volume of sewn pages. Today’s textbook may be that, or it may be an entirely online product with hyperlinks in place of pages, or perhaps a combination of CD-ROM, Web site, and printed handouts. The five companies highlighted here publish and/or distribute digital texts, each with a unique approach.

Rovia, based in Brookline, Mass., distributes copyrighted intellectual property online. Rovia works with publishers to deliver online content to students while protecting the publishers’ rights. Using the RovReader, a proprietary browser plug-in, users can access and interact with their electronic textbooks from any Internet-capable device.

MetaText offers completely online textbooks integrated with course management systems (CMS). MetaText has partnered with several course management system providers, including Blackboard, and also offers its own course management features such as Course Editor and SyllabusEditor.

Atomic Dog Publishers has merged the roles of traditional print publisher and online content provider into what they call “hybred” (as opposed to hybrid) media publishing. Their titles are a combination of online content, interactive media, and print component. Atomic Dog’s holistic approach starts with the content, building technology tools such as video and animation around the subject matter.

Thinkwell Publishers, based in Austin, Texas, offers textbook content in both CD-ROM and online formats. Thinkwell’s titles (about 15 so far in the social sciences and sciences) feature a complete set of video lectures (about 10 minutes each in length), illustrated notes to accompany the lectures, and even transcripts of the lectures for those who need them.

OpenMind publishes customized, personalized learning materials. They work with authors to publish original content or supplements to existing OpenMind content. Using an open source model, OpenMind encourages authors and adopters to engage in a collaborative process of continuously revising, improving, and customizing content.

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