One of the largest textbook publishers is taking textbooks where they've never gone before -- to a digital publishing platform that paves the way for professors to customize the material. On Monday Macmillan launched the platform called DynamicBooks.

The new software Relevant Products/Services lets instructors tailor textbook content to suit the specific needs of their classroom by editing or adding new text or media. They can add or delete entire chapters, add a syllabus, include notes, and much more. After instructors finish customizing the textbook, students can either purchase the digital text or a printed version through Lightning Source, Ingram's print-on-demand service. Digital versions will cost as little as half the price of a printed book.

"Most college students don't read textbooks anymore," said Charles Grisham, a professor of chemistry at the University of Virginia. "Students jump from point to point, as they do on the Internet. It's also safe to say that no textbook has completely matched every instructor's syllabus. DynamicBooks offers instructors and authors a better way to convey content that is more relevant and creative-minded, and that mirrors the always interactive environment in which students live."

Textbooks 2.0

Here's a closer look at how it works: Instructors can integrate podcasts, video clips, animation, equation editors, graphing tools, and their own content to customize a textbook to match their teaching style and class focus. Instructor-edited content will be highlighted as changed from the original text and attributed to the instructor who made the change. All original content and original multimedia additions will be copyrighted by the instructor.

Students who purchase the digital package can access the book online, download a version, or even put it on an iPhone. Students can also annotate or highlight and search terms or their notes in DynamicBooks and print from within the application. Printed, bound versions are available in black and white or full color. Students can order these books from retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com and Follett.

Empowering Professors

This isn't completely new. DynamicBooks currently offers 20 science and math books. Macmillan is adding more titles every week in subjects such as psychology, economics and statistics. Bedford, Freeman and Worth has committed to adding many of its most popular textbooks to the platform in the months to come. DynamicBooks will be available for purchase at the DynamicBooks web site and college bookstores on Aug. 1.

"In theory, when I was in school you didn't have to read the entire textbooks. Some of the text was worthless or were redundant to other books professors would prefer you to read," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group. "So this technology allows professors to craft the content along the lines of the course material they are putting together. It leads to a more customized learning experience."