Today, I learned about an organization that promises to do for (or to) the textbook publishing industry what MP3s and iTunes have done to the traditional music business: create disruption and disintermediation. The organization is called CK-12, a non-profit organization launched in 2006, and it aims to reduce the cost of textbook materials for the K-12 market both in the US and worldwide. Using an open-source, collaborative, and web-based compilation model that can be manifested as an adaptive textbook – termed the “FlexBook”, CK-12 intends to pioneer the generation and distribution of high quality educational web texts. Given the pedigree of the founder – Vinod Khosla (co-founder of Sun, partner in Kleiner Perkins, founder of Khosla Ventures, net worth $1.5B) along with his wife, Neeru, there is a high likelihood that his prediction that the publishing business will become obsolete will come true. The exerpt from the website below explains the rationale for his mission:
Today, textbooks that are used in K-12 system are limiting, expensive and are difficult to update. Because of this, K-12 teachers find it hard to introduce new concepts and cater to different needs. What we need is a more flexible and less expensive system to create and distribute books and online content. FlexBooks, by their very nature, satisfies this need. They contain high quality online content, and are easy to create, update and print. They provide a new system that will follow an open source philosophy to place content on-line that can be “mixed, modified and printed“.
I would add to that last line, “or downloaded to the Kindle, or other e-book reader”. Why be limited to a PC, or continue to rely on dead trees, when printing is not even necessary? When you think about the marriage of these two developments, the possibilities for ubiquitous, customized learning resources become staggering. Truly, “Any Book, Any Kid, Any Time.” For a video of a presentation by the founders watch this: