Free College Textbooks: Fad or Fabulous?


Let’s face it: college is expensive. Way too expensive!

Worse, the cost of higher education continues to rise at a faster rate than inflation, making it very difficult for families to afford it. In a few years time when our nation’s bloated debt begins to impact the economy, inflation will begin to jump pushing college costs ever higher.

textbookOne area of expense that has been hard to control are textbooks. However, private industry has stepped in by offering textbook rentals, something SayCampusLife reported on previously (please see our Related Reading section which follows this article). This can be a good option for students who are accustomed to paying more than $1000 annually for their books.

But a new model for textbooks may soon change everything as a publisher of expert-authored, free and open college textbooks gets noticed. Flat World Knowledge, founded by textbook publishing industry veterans Jeff Shelstad and Eric Frank, has brought the internet’s “Open Source” model to the world of publishing.

Flat World’s textbooks are written by the world’s leading subject matter experts. The books are peer reviewed, professionally edited and developed, and made available for free online to educators and students. Educators have the freedom to use the books as-is, or to modify them to suit their unique classroom requirements. Students can access the books for free, or purchase alternatives from print-on-demand versions of the books, to audio versions, to downloadable versions and more at a fraction of the cost of traditional textbooks.

“Flat World fits my needs for my class by providing content from a first class author at an affordable price and flexible formats for students,” said Dr. Marc Weinberger, Professor of Marketing in the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. “Flat World’s business model has the potential to be a truly disruptive entry into the traditional publishing world.”

Initially, Flat World focused purposely and solely on business course textbooks as means to test the effectiveness of online textbooks in the classroom. The company is currently branching out to include general education courses by acquiring authors and beginning the development of those textbooks.

“Branching into general education courses will have a tremendous impact on community colleges in particular,” noted Eric Frank, Flat World Knowledge co- founder and chief marketing officer. “Not only are general education courses the bread and butter of community colleges, community college students are feeling the greatest pinch from the high cost of traditional textbooks. With 40 percent of students sitting in a general education course at any given time, we know that expanding our offering will help a greater population of students.”

Flat World’s 2009 Roadmap also includes plans to partner with a leading education assessment software company, one that assists professors in generating assignments and managing grade books. The company also plans to support integration with campus learning management systems (LMS), such as Blackboard, ANGEL, and others, by offering LMS-ready versions of textbooks. The company is also working to expand its operations to support international colleges and universities,

“We wanted to share our roadmap so professors and students can see how free and open textbooks can positively impact their teaching and learning experience,” added Eric Frank. “We expect 2009 to be a big year for us as we further our commitment to offering alternatives to the high-cost traditional textbook.”

As far as controlling your other college costs, you have your FAFSA to keep your tuition and room and board expenses in check, but now you have several options to keep your textbook costs under control thanks to Flat World Knowledge, Chegg, Skoobit and others who are offering students a fabulous change.

Source: Flat World Knowledge

Related Reading

Textbook Tuesday: Are You Ready For It? (SayCampusLife)



Flat World Knowledge



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Categories: Campus News, Study Tips