Monthly Archives: February, 2013
Free Textbooks, Easier Said Than Done
Todays guest post is by Alisha Azevedo
Providing college kids with free textbooks is no straightforward task. That appears to be the major lesson from 1 or 2 attempts to produce ebooks that are low cost or free to help cut back scholars ‘ costs. Money pressures, slow adoption by professors, and quality concerns stand in the way as these projects hope to rival conventional publishing. Take Flat World Information Incorporated , a pretender publisher that had been a key advocate of a supposed freemium model of giving away electronic copies of textbooks and asking scholars to pay for extras like flash cards or released copies. The company declared a unexpected move away from that model in Nov , saying that its free-content option will not be available beginning in Jan .
The cause of the change : Scholars were not purchasing as many published copies as anticipated because people who wanted one got a second hand copy instead of buy another one from Flat World, asserted Jeff Shelstad, one of the firm’s founders.
Flat World will still offer textbooks at lower costs than standard publishers do, he added, but nothing will be free. The firm’s basic online books cost about $20 each. Flat World Information is also chasing a sponsored-licensing model with some schools, where an external company or foundation would enter into a contract with Flat World Information or the school to aid in paying for the price of content. The electronic book company will be well placed to judge the impact of its “free to fair” pricing transition by next year, Mr.
Shelstad related. “We will determine whether the expansion in faculty adoption continues,” he revealed. “There are a large amount of moving pieces to our business.” Some see Flat World Knowledge’s move away from the freemium model as a caution for other open-access textbook projects. But Nicole Allen, an affordable-textbooks counsel for the Coed Public Interest Research Groups, disagrees that business still seems promising for free or inexpensive textbooks. Flat World’s freemium model “lasted 5 years with over 5 hundred top quality textbooks they proved it may work,” she claimed. Finding paths to support the producing of free textbooks isn’t the only unresolved issue for open-textbook fans. Another challenge is getting buy-in from instructors, who must be swayed to take on the textbooks. And when books are created by volunteers, keeping quality high can be more troublesome than in the standard model, where writers are paid by publishers. Manufacturing free textbooks may appear like a smart idea, but it is turning out to be simpler to say than to do. “It’s like the school library,” expounded Tim Tirrell, director of partnerships and strategic planning for Merlot, a free online resource for varsity learning materials supported customarily by the California State School system. “Everybody accepts that it should be there it should be free to access and free to everybody.
But somewhere in back, you want a supportable financial model and partners. “.