Education · Legal

What are legal implications of starting a service that 'reads' and 'explains' popular text books?

Partha Deb Looking to improve high school math by design

April 4th, 2017

I have never been a A+ student (maybe sometimes), and have almost always found it difficult as a high school student to quickly grasp contents of advanced text books. As much as I loved those subjects, there was something missing in my way of learning things (which was steady but slow) that made me always fall behind the regular class. What would have helped is someone who 'joined those dots' in advanced concepts, explained in a slow pace why, for eg: the issue in question needs a differential calculus based solution as opposed to just linear math. These are nuances that popular text books (in most parts of the world) do not cover, and a lot of students fall behind their class (adds to anxiety, depression, pressure, yada yada). I know people seek help from private/online tutors, but that's such an out-dated way of spending money! In today's connected world, students should be able to get these kinds of support on their smart phones!

I am thinking, from the point of view of a not-so-bright student, of developing a podcast/playlist where a reader patiently goes over the most popular yet pursued text books (maybe in STEM to begin with). The features would be:

1. Self paced: the podcast pace can be set by the listener

2. Stress/detailed explanation of 'hot spots': difficult concepts inadequately covered/explained in the book. How do we know what's a hot-spot? We will provide an interface to get inputs from students at those specific time-stamps (much like sound-cloud) and with time the data-base will grow and improve

3. Keep increasing the book library, from all over the world. Much like Netflix, the value will improve once the library grows.


1. Are there legal issues in explaining copyrighted text books?

2. Is there potential to partner with publishers in the future and provide this kind of 'hybrid' tech?

3. If the goal is to reach millions/billions of people around the world, we would need to be able to use very low bandwidth, say 2G or 3G

I am guessing this product would be relevant for majority of students who fall below say 80 percentile of the bell-curve (meaning its a potentially big market).

Looking for thoughts and potential partnership.

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James Sharp Strategy-minded, b-school to build something new

April 5th, 2017

I would suggest maybe starting with Statistics. It leads itself pretty well to explanation (through examples) and is really broadly applicable across students to business people who need a touch up.

One of the popular books; there is Introduction to Statistical Learning. Here it is on Amazon (shortened link)

Franciscus Zheng I am easy to work with and will be an asset to you

April 5th, 2017

1. I think explaining (deep cover) or get the synopsis (conclusion) about the book itself its a good idea. so far i know in the eyes of law, there no rules for 'explaining', except redistribute or resell the book in other way. Eg. 1000 page book converted to 15 minutes pod-cast. I think it's new way to promote the book and not infringement the copyright issue.

2. Yes! Prob you can use Youtube (audio - video) for early stage before you make your own, you got subscribers and monetizes your channel. Apple (audio) for pod-cast

3. Of course, think also about growth countries, their infrastructure, and its demographic validation issue. Lets say in my country Indonesia. You prob know Bali they have an good public Internet connection. but hows about Papua (do you ever hear them?) is largest island on Indonesia but still do not have a good Internet infrastructure.

David VomLehn Why would you prefer a computer that breaks?

April 4th, 2017

Hmm, I like the idea! This is going to require some very careful design to make it usable, but the social aspects of having a community contribute to explanations sounds really good. The hard part will be that, even with a "Like" button, sorting through explanations to make sure they apply for a particular listener is going to require manual curation.

From a legal standpoint, the explanation shouldn't be a problem but you want to weave that in with the original text, which is copyrighted. So, depending on your approach, you may have to get permission to show the original work. You could require that the user have the book and then have the user enter the page/paragraph number. This would avoid copyright issues completely, but is a more awkward interfaces. It might be a way to start, though, so it bears thinking about.

Aleksey Malyshev Software Engineer at iTouch Biometrics, LLC

April 4th, 2017

When I was a child I used to watch movies with my father. I was young and could not understand the plot. I only remembered scenes. So when we left the cinema, my father used to explain to me what was the movie about. I think it was very useful.

Partha Deb Looking to improve high school math by design

April 5th, 2017

Can you guys suggest a good book (say Math or Physics) to start off with?

Partha Deb Looking to improve high school math by design

April 4th, 2017

@David: I was probably not very clear, but my idea of using the 'community' was just to identify 'hot spots' in a book, but the explanation would be done by subject matter experts like a Math or Physics teacher. Does that sound better?

Ayodeji Ojewande

April 9th, 2017

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Partha Deb Looking to improve high school math by design

April 18th, 2017

I need to find a way to reach students and identify what subjects and topics in high schools they find the most difficult to pick up from text books. Whats a good way/platform?