Flat World Publishers are putting out textbooks for free on the web, and making money. Oh, and students actually like it.
Sound stupid? Sounds like the future to me. Textbook publishing is a racket. Publishers extort billions from students bi-annually (or more often) by selling them required texts for their classes. Flat World comes in with a proposal that’s downright equitable. You can read this textbook online for free, or you can order a printed copy for a reasonable price, and you can buy additional materials, like audio books, study-aids and individual chapters if you need or want them. One of the optional purchases is a unencrypted, un-DRMed PDF file of the book, which can be read on any device that can read PDFs. This is useful for offline access and of course for Kindle and e-reader access.
Additionally, most of the materials are updated frequently and include appropriate links and media, all of which can be customized by individual professors for individual classes. This is smart. And it’s why I’m not at all surprised that this effort came from outside the traditional publishing industry.