Random House Invests In Creative Commons 'Free' Textbook Publisher Flat World Knowledge

from the are-they-getting-it? dept

We’ve written a few times in the past about Flat World Knowledge, a textbook publisher that really seems to have embraced the sort of business models we discuss. It gives away digital versions (the infinitely abundant kind) of its textbooks for free, but charges for the scarcities, such as printed copies. It puts the books up under a Creative Commons license as well, letting anyone improve upon the works as well. Thus, it’s interesting to see that established publishers are taking notice. Apparently Random House has now invested in the company. Of course, some may point out that Random House doesn’t publish textbooks, but perhaps it can learn a thing or two about how FWK has embraced openness and free as a part of a larger business model.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: flat world knowledge, random house

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Random House Invests In Creative Commons 'Free' Textbook Publisher Flat World Knowledge”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Nina Paley (profile) says:

Creative Commons Branding Confusion

It puts the books up under a Creative Commons license as well

I respectfully request you please specify which license when talking about Creative Commons. It could be Free or un-Free; although you wrote it allows derivative works, it could still restrict “commercial” use. Because their most popular licenses are their least Free, when people just say “Creative Commons” instead of which license, it adds to the CC branding confusion, which we’ve talked about here.

Danny (user link) says:

What baffles me...

On the subject of text books why on this good and green earth are they so expensive? Take a math book. Why do even the lowest level math books in college cost nearly $100 (I recall my Calculus text book costing me a a bit over $100 when I was in college about 10 years ago).

Next off what’s up with replacing the textbook almost every single year? There have been no major breakthroughs in the world of mathematics so what in the last few decades right (or at least nothing that would require a brand new undergrad level textbook)? Yet and still I recall that every single math text book I bought in college having no resell value at my campus book store because it was getting replaced the next semester.

With my rant over here’s my point. Like the two folks above said I can totally see whatever forces that keep textbooks artificially high and with no resell value will zero in on Flat World Knowledge and shut them down.

bob (profile) says:

Does it really give away digital versions?

The full story says, “although it charges for print and various digital versions.” And indeed it does. I clicked on the button that says, “Read free now” and the first thing I see is a page of options that allow me to buy an ebook for $24.95. Printed versions are even more. There’s also a button that lets me print out a chapter for $2.49.

If you click the right buttons, you can click through to a Scribd reader. The CC license, btw, is attribution, non-commercial, share-alike which almost certainly prohibits it from being used in for-profit schools. (And given the mercenary nature of the modern so-called non-profit schools, I would suggest that they’re commercial ventures too. But that’s for another flame war.)

Can you actually download a copy? I haven’t figured out how and I wouldn’t be surprised to find that plenty of digging yields some DRM. And even if it doesn’t use something with the official letters “DRM” on it, the game plan is still the same: make it hard to get something for free and easy for someone to contribute to the development costs. In other words: artificial scarcity.

Now I’m perfectly happy with the creators being rewarded for their efforts. But I think that Mike has been a bit too eager to celebrate this one. It seems like the same old scheme with new terminology and astroturfing wrapped around it to get free press.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...