Flat World Knowledge No Longer Offers Free Textbooks

FLAT-FOOTED: Flat World Knowledge will no longer offer its digital textbooks for free beginning in 2013, according to InsideHigherEd. Instead, it plans to charge $19.95 as part of a plan "to make our business healthier," according to co-founder and CEO Jeff Shelstad. The company started out in 2007 to publish free digital textbooks under a Creative Commons license so that professors can customize materials for their courses. (Print and additional digital features came for a fee.) This move naturally raises questions over the viability of "free" as a main pillar of any sustainable business model. David Wiley, who was CTO back in the company's early days, expressed his dismay at the timing of this move, especially given that California (and other states) have made serious commitments to open textbooks. He asks: "Does the board...realize the good will and free marketing they're throwing away?"

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