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Tweaking Your Textbook On the Fly

by Mokoto Rich

Readers can modify content on the Web, so why not in books?

In a kind of Wikipedia of textbooks, Macmillan, one of the five largest publishers of trade books and textbooks, is introducing software called DynamicBooks, which will allow college instructors to edit digital editions of textbooks and customize them for their individual classes.

Professors will be able to reorganize or delete chapters; upload course syllabuses, notes, videos, pictures and graphs; and perhaps most notably, rewrite or delete individual paragraphs, equations or illustrations.

While many publishers have offered customized print textbooks for years — allowing instructors to reorder chapters or insert third-party content from other publications or their own writing — DynamicBooks gives instructors the power to alter individual sentences and paragraphs without consulting the original authors or publisher.

“Basically they will go online, log on to the authoring tool, have the content right there and make whatever changes they want,” said Brian Napack, president of Macmillan. “And we don’t even look at it.”

In August, Macmillan plans to start selling 100 titles through DynamicBooks, including “Chemical Principles: The Quest for Insight,” by Peter Atkins and Loretta Jones; “Discovering the Universe,” by Neil F. Comins and William

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