Chris Snyder, Open Source Textbooks Challenge a Paradigm, Wired, September 1, 2008.
A small, digital book startup thinks it has a solution to the age-old student lament: overpriced textbooks that have little value when the course is over. The answer? Make them open source — and give them away.
Flat World Knowledge is the brainchild of two former textbook industry executives who learned from the inside about the wacky economy of textbooks.
In a nutshell, there is a huge, inelastic demand for college texts, even though textbook prices are high. Because of this there is a lot of piracy and a robust secondary market for textbooks — but not for long, because they are updated every couple of years, rendering old editions virtually worthless.
Flat World’s business plan aims to exploit the inefficiencies: Its books are online and free. Instead of charging for content it aims to make money by wrapping content up in “convenient” downloadable and print wrappers and selling those, along with study aides and related items. …
See also our past posts on Flat World Knowledge.