Marching Forward: Boundless Settles Lawsuit with Traditional Publishers, Continues to Change Education

Our founding goal: improve education
Boundless was founded to change and improve the foundation of one of the world’s oldest industries: education. We set out to bring education into the digital age with affordable products students and educators would love. In 2010, as the idea for Boundless began to take shape, the iPad had just been introduced, and it was clear that with the combined power of the Internet and open educational content change was coming to education. We were ready.

We were ready because we knew that education was in desperate need of innovation. Just take a quick look at the state of education today: Costs are surging, to the detriment of students mired in over a trillion dollars of debt. Effectiveness is plummeting, with the US no longer near the top of developed nations. And it’s going in this direction at a time when the world is changing faster than ever, making education, and the skills needed for lifelong learning, more important than ever.

Over the past three years, Boundless has grown steadily, pursuing our goal of changing education. What started as a crazy and fragile idea morphed into an early prototype, as we launched our beta product in the fall of 2011.

The plot thickens: sued by incumbents
Shortly after launch, about a year into our development and during our beta period, we received the unfortunate and surprising news that we were being sued by three of the world’s largest textbook publishers: Pearson Education, Cengage Learning and Bedford, Freeman & Worth Publishing Group (owned by Macmillan Publishers).

The case alleged unfair competition, false advertising, and copyright infringement, while not accusing us of copying actual text. We disagreed with the allegations and immediately took to defending ourselves publicly and in court. Our country is built on respect for law, which is vital to maintain progress and innovation. The legal system can also be slow, so it was critical that while defending ourselves we continued to focus on what was within our control—innovation on behalf of students and education.

We took the news in stride, and continued growing our team and focusing on doing what we do best – building great products, responding to the needs of students, and learning quickly about this emerging world.

Resolving our dispute and moving forward
Today, we’re excited to announce that we’ve settled the lawsuit. In agreeing to a confidential settlement agreement, along with a public judgment and injunction entered by the Court, the parties have resolved the dispute. The resolution allows the parties to move forward and focus on their mutually shared goal of helping students learn. Boundless now has a clear path for building and marketing its OER-driven textbook alternatives without treading upon the Plaintiffs’ rights, and it is confident that it is in compliance and will not have further legal issues with the Plaintiff publishers. In turn, Plaintiffs have reinforced the strong protection they have in and to their copyrighted works and the related goodwill that they and their authors have established, and look forward to Boundless operating its business within the agreed upon framework.

A year and a half of progress and innovation
Looking back, it’s incredible to reflect on all we’ve accomplished in the year and a half since the lawsuit began.

At the time of the lawsuit in March of 2012, our beta product was reaching a few thousand students, in three subjects with about 10 titles. Our product was a very basic web-only reader and our team had less than 10 people.

Since then, we have doubled the size of our amazing team, released two major student-facing products, built a brand new educator platform, grown our content sevenfold, and increased our usage and reach more than 3 million students and educators. This is not only incredibly exciting, it is also a testament to the strength of our team and vision.

All along the way, we’ve been focused on the student experience to provide affordable, better learning tools. This month, we opened Boundless up to educators, too, with a the new Boundless Teaching Platform. This new platform empowers educators to customize and assign affordable textbooks. It also goes beyond textbooks with the ability to track student progress, assign readings and homework, and download editable and shareable PowerPoint slides to support their lectures.


Marching towards our vision and a post-textbook world
While it’s fun to reflect on what we’ve done, it’s even more important to look ahead to what we still have left to do to change education.

We live in a time with amazing technology and opportunity. We carry around the entirety of human knowledge in our pockets. Whether this helps you satisfy a nagging trivia question, self-diagnose a bodily pain you have, or expand your knowledge, it’s clear our interconnectedness is revolutionizing all sorts of industries and solving real-world problems.

And yet, given how far we’ve come in so many areas, it’s incredibly sad and frustrating to think how far behind we are in the world of education and educational content. We all deserve better.

Today’s technology means that we can achieve better quality products AND lower costs. Yesterday’s trade offs of cost at the expense of quality (or vice versa) are no longer relevant in a world full of digital surplus.

Furthermore, the educational publishing industry is in the midst of the biggest and most exciting transformation in decades. We are seeing a transition from physical to digital, especially increasingly mobile. A transition to open content powered by the Internet. An opportunity to create communities of learners, educators, and content creators like we’ve never seen before. An opportunity for world class products to quickly reach millions and millions of students with the efficient distribution we’re seeing.

The transition to a digital educational content foundation has been slowed by a conservative industry, a search for new business models, and a lack of great products.

Thankfully, we’re finally on the verge of solving this.

Ariel Diaz
Founder and CEO, Boundless

  • indiegogo

    Really helpful your post about on education.