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What are NPG’s interactive textbooks?

Our interactive textbooks are rich, comprehensive resources for undergraduate level science classes. They combine the foundational materials traditionally found in textbooks – clear explanations of key concepts, high quality illustrations, biographical and historical background – with valuable online activities that help students develop a mature understanding of scientific concepts: interactive infographics and learning activities, guided synopses of primary literature, scientific skills training (including data analysis), and more than 2,000 test questions that give students immediate feedback about their strengths and weaknesses.

Who wrote Principles of Biology?

Nature Publishing Group’s editorial team spearheaded the authoring effort, supported by a team of more than 50 undergraduate instructors, artists, researchers, and journalists, and more than 200 reviewers drawn from undergraduate teaching and research institutions.

What is California State University’s role in Principles of Biology?

CSU has been a strategic partner throughout development of Principles of Biology, by committing several kinds of contributions to our project. First, CSU dedicated a team of 5 experienced biology instructors to work closely with us for a period of 9 months, acting as first reviewers of all materials and a decision-making team for critical editorial issues such as the best balance of interactives, assessments, and traditional learning content. Second, CSU committed to adopt Principles of Biology upon launch at 3 campuses. Third, CSU’s Chancellors Office has collaborated with our team over the past four months to design a business model for Principles of Biology that satisfies universities’ key structural needs – learning effectiveness, affordability, and accessibility – while also satisfying NPG’s need as a publisher to build a sustainable model for investing in and maintaining high quality interactive textbooks. Principles of Biology has been designed by the 40+ person editorial team as an ideal resource for effective use in introductory biology programs at any university.

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How can instructors customize the Principles of Biology interactive textbook?

Principles of Biology is designed around approximately 200 mini-chapters, organized into units each of roughly 20 – 30 modules covering chemistry, cell, genetics, evolution, animal physiology, plant physiology, biodiversity, and ecology. By default, these modules are arranged in the order in which most undergraduate biology courses cover these subjects. Instructors can adopt the textbook in this form in as little as ten minutes. Instructors who want to customize the textbook to match their classroom style can do so in a number of ways:

  • Instructors can rearrange the table of contents at either the module or unit level.
  • Instructors can configure which features within the textbook will be available to their students. For instance, instructors can choose to leave out advanced features like links to primary literature.
  • Instructors can choose from a variety of additional delivery formats for their students beyond traditional web browsers, including smartphones, tablets, and offline digital.
  • If instructors prefer their students to have a professionally printed hard copy companion rather than a self-print version, they can contact NPG and we will coordinate a print solution for them.

Any customization that instructors make will automatically update all course materials to ensure they match the main textbook, including instructor resources such as the Instructor Guide and student material such as the self-print hard copy companion. Once the textbook is adopted and in use, instructors can continue to customize by adding annotations and comments throughout the textbook, to be shared with their class.

What kinds of classroom management features does Principles of Biology include?

Principles of Biology ships with a strong set of features that enable instructors to run an effective classroom, including:

  • Online gradebook, which automatically records all students’ scores on the more than 1,000 end-of-module questions, giving instructors a continual visibility into their class’s progress, as well as optional comparisons between their students’ performance and those of other classes.
  • Discussion space, through which instructors can engage students in collective dialogue about the topics they are learning in class.
  • Test builder, through which instructors can pull from a test bank of more than 2,000 questions additional to those found at ends of modules to create any number of custom tests aligned with learning objectives; these tests can be integrated into the interactive textbook or downloaded in text format.


How can Principles of Biology be integrated with our campus Learning Management System?

The most robust way of using Principles of Biology is directly from, where students and instructors can have access to synopses of primary literature and other ancillary resources drawn from NPG’s archives. However, by the end of 2011 Principles of Biology will support integration with most current versions of major Learning Management Systems (LMSs), enabling instructors who prefer to use Principles of Biology in Blackboard, Moodle, Desire2Learn, WebCT, Sakai, or Angel to do so. Instructors who choose this option will be contacted by a customer service specialist who will provide a simple compressed package that instructors will be able to upload to their LMS.

Which instructor supplements come with Principles of Biology?

Principles of Biology ships with a rich set of ancillary resources designed to support instructors throughout the semester, including:

  • A self-print Instructors’ Guide, which includes summaries of all modules, art, and key terms.
  • A test builder, through which instructors can pull from a test bank of more than 2,000 questions, additional to those found at ends of modules, to create any number of custom tests aligned with learning objectives. These tests can be integrated into the textbook or downloaded in text format.
  • Downloadable versions of all art in formats suitable for easy use in lectures, including JPEG versions of art, PowerPoint versions of art, and PowerPoint versions of art with lecture summaries.
  • Access to the Principles of Biology online lab network, which contains high quality previously published labs from a number of instructors, republished in special editions by NPG.
  • A Research Paper library, containing more than 100 classic papers from NPG journals with synopses and explanations specifically written to guide undergraduates into a gradual comfort with primary literature.

Which student supplements come with Principles of Biology?

Principles of Biology ships with a rich set of ancillary resources designed to provide students with a rounded, supported learning experience throughout the semester, including:

  • Automatically generated Study Cards, pulling together the passages throughout the textbook that the student highlights or annotates for easy reference and study.
  • Science on the Internet, which gives students links to vetted resources around the WWW they can turn to for advanced study of the topic at hand.
  • English Communication for Science Students, a special undergraduate edition of NPG’s highly popular English Communication for Scientists, guiding students to an understanding of how to write effective papers and give strong presentations.
  • Guide to Life Science Careers, a guided tour through the range of career possibilities open to science undergraduates.
  • A downloadable self-print color hard copy Principles of Biology Companion, containing most of the material from the textbook.
  • A downloadable self-print color hard copy Principles of Biology Study Guide, containing module summaries, key terms, and end of module questions.
  • Glossary, with audio recordings of pronunciations.

Can students access Principles of Biology through mobile devices?

Yes, all students will be able to access special versions of the textbook through their smartphone and tablet browser, as well as through traditional desktop/laptop browsers. The smartphone version will contain basic content from the textbook, including introductory textbook content, key terms, module summaries, and class announcements. The tablet version will feature all content from the textbook, including interactives.

Will there be future editions of Principles of Biology?

One of the core goals of Principles of Biology is to continually keep pace with emerging scientific discoveries. Because Principles of Biology is published online, the material can be frequently updated. For this reason, we consider Principles of Biology to be a “living edition,” maintained on a regular basis by NPG’s editorial team after its initial launch.

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How does Principles of Biology take advantage of NPG’s role as the publisher of Nature and other high Impact Factor journals?

Principles of Biology, while intended for any first year undergraduate student, also includes special resources designed to help advanced students start to develop a mature understanding of the research world of science, drawing upon NPG’s extensive content archive and connections with the scientific community. These resources include:

  • A Research Paper library, containing more than 100 classic papers from NPG journals with synopses and explanations specifically written to guide undergraduates into a gradual comfort with primary literature.
  • More than 200 “science skills” modules designed to help students develop research abilities, including data analysis.
  • More than 200 images from NPG’s extensive archive of published images.
  • An editorial focus throughout all modules on teaching students to develop an active, critical, creative understanding of science concepts and their ramifications in the real world.

How much does Principles of Biology cost, and how can classes purchase it?

Principles of Biology will be available for purchase in two models. In the Traditional model, students purchase individual access to the textbook either by buying an access card at their campus bookstore or using a credit card directly online. Principles of Biology retails in the Traditional model at $49. For this price, students will receive lifetime access to the content. In the Site License model, an institution can purchase access on behalf of all students at their university. Institutions interested in a Site License should contact Nature Education to receive a custom quote.

Do instructors who are interested in considering adoption of the course receive samples?

Since Principles of Biology is a “born digital” product, instructors – once validated by our customer service staff – will receive immediate online free access to the full product. Instructors will also be able to download a self-print version of the hard copy companion.

When will samples be ready, and where can we see them?

Principles of Biology will be ready for review by instructors on September 1, 2011. An announcement will be released at that time giving the URL for instructors interested in exploring the resource. In the meantime, faculty can register to receive regular updates on the project at

Is Principles of Biology accessible by students with disabilities?

Yes, Principles of Biology natively supports the learning needs of a range of disabled students, in alignment with the United States’ 508 policy and the international WCAG standard. NPG has worked with a leading creator of accessible learning solutions to design this support, which includes full screen reader compatibility for images and interactives, keyboard control for all pages, strong color contrasts, and more. A full VPAT will be available on September 1.

Does NPG plan to create more textbooks beyond Principles of Biology?

Yes, our plan is to create a full library of interactive textbooks in the sciences over the next few years. Faculty who would like to be kept abreast of developments or participate in future projects can register at

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How can NPG afford to make this high quality content available for $49?

We can offer this textbook for $49 in large part because we do not need to spend the considerable money involved in printing four-color textbooks. While we believe that print formats are a helpful accompaniment to online learning, we regard delivery of rich learning experiences as our core service. We allow all students to not only freely download and print their own hard copy companions if they choose but to have one professionally prepared copy printed and bound for them at a local print shop, copy shop, or bookstore.

Whom should I talk to if I want to learn more about how I could use Principles of Biology in my classes?

If you’re interested in using Principles of Biology, either now or in the future, send an e-mail to One of our editors will be in touch with you soon.

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