Alumnus creates textbook alternative

The Dartmouth

October 9, 2012

By Karna Adam

Ariel Diaz '02, Th'03 Ariel Diaz '02, Th'04

Ariel Diaz ’02 Th’04 is offering students across the country an alternative to buying costly textbooks every term through his new startup, Boundless.com, which offers students free compilations of non-copyrighted material in a textbook form.

Boundless does not provide actual e-textbooks, but rather uses a mix of government and nonprofit open-licensed content, according to Diaz, who started working on the idea two and a half years ago with co-founder Aaron White.

Diaz said that his goal is not only to give students a less costly way to learn, but also to “create an education system that lets every individual perform and learn at their potential and speed.”

Boundless currently features review videos, flashcards and note-taking tools in addition to textbook information. In the future, Diaz hopes to add tools like e-tutoring, for which users would pay to make the company’s business model sustainable. The company’s founders are not currently worried about finding ways to generate profits, Diaz said.

In March, Boundless faced a setback when three textbook publishers filed a lawsuit against the company, according to Diaz. Boundless has since filed to dismiss two of the lawsuit’s claims concerning unfair competition and false advertising, he said.

“The primary purpose was to use the legal system to stifle innovation by claiming copyright ownership on what is fundamentally free and open,” he said, noting that he does not think that the lawsuit will hamper the company’s progress. “We’re confident in our mission and in the actual case because corporate law doesn’t protect facts and ideas.”

In a national private beta test involving 1,000 colleges, students rated their experience with the website 50 percent higher than that with physical textbooks, according to Techcrunch.com. The year-long test occurred while the website was still in its trial stages.

After browsing the website, however, Emily Bao ’16 said she would not opt to replace her textbooks with the Boundless web content.

“I’ve never been a fan of using my computer to read textbooks simply because I get distracted way more easily,” she said.

There is also no equivalent material for her international trade class, Bao said.

Matt Krantz ’16 said he also has apprehensions about replacing his textbooks because he fears that many of his professors’ test questions come directly from required textbooks. In his case, Boundless would seem useful as a supplemental study guide to class material, he said.

Diaz created Boundless after considering how to make open educational content more useful for college students, he said. Boundless reflects his goal of offering students a more flexible approach to education.

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