Open Source Textbooks Gaining Traction

from the very-cool dept

Earlier this year, we wrote about the very cool business model being used by “open source textbook” company Flat World Knowledge. Basically, you could read the books for free online, but there were also other ways to get the book in other formats where you would have to pay. The company seemed to be gaining traction lately, with a nice round of funding, and now it’s being reported that 40,000 students at over 400 colleges and universities will be using Flat World texts this fall. That sound you hear? It’s an old stodgy market getting disrupted.

Related to this, Slashdot points out that here in California, where the state was running a free digital textbook competition, the results showed that some of the open solutions won the competition and were considered better reference materials than the ones provided by big publishers. In fact, the e-texts from a small company called CK-12 seemed to do quite well — 3 of the 4 online texts that were deemed to meet 100% of the state’s standards all came from CK-12.

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Companies: ck-12, flat world knowledge

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Comments on “Open Source Textbooks Gaining Traction”

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Ryan says:

My textbooks were a step above worthless and a step below pond scum; however, I was forced to buy them for the sole reason that the instructor required homework from those books. Nobody is under the slightest misconception that most textbooks are actually worth their weight in dogshit, but colleges will have to consider the interests of their students over that of publishers, which would be a first. But if 400 colleges are already using them officially, then maybe there’s hope after all.

kyle Clements (profile) says:


If you have a photocopier, and you work out the toner/paper cost per page, it’s actually cheaper to take the textbook out of the library, copy each page, bind them and use that.
Of course, that would be wrong…while hosing poor university kids who can barely afford food, well, that’s just fine.

back when i was in university, i saved a good chunk of money by not buying most of the textbooks. I would go in the library and read them for free. some of the texts were priced reasonably, so I rewarded those publishers with my dollars. But $150 for 300 pages of tissue paper? I don’t think so.

in this day and age, there is no reason why a textbook should not be a reasonably priced PDF file ($10 per student could work, but free would be better)

Ronald J Riley (profile) says:

This has merit-there is a difference

Every participant does so of their own volition. I assume that they will not misappropriate others work.

This is very different from what is being pushed for inventors, where the masses egged on by corporate patent pirates feel entitled to steal inventors work.

It seems to me that it is time for TechDIRT people to start inventing things, that is if the can, and contribute their inventions by publishing them here.

Everyone should be aware that producing and documenting an invention is many orders of magnitude more difficult then whipping up the typical TechDIRT topic.

This is an opportunity for the TechDIRT community to set a good example.

Ronald J. Riley,

I am speaking only on my own behalf.
President – – RJR act
Executive Director – – RJR at
Senior Fellow –
President – Alliance for American Innovation
Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
Washington, DC
Direct (810) 597-0194 / (202) 318-1595 – 9 am to 8 pm EST.

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