Bringing the freemium model to the musty world of textbook publishing, Flat World Knowledge (FWK), a Nyack, NY-based publisher of open-source commercial textbooks, has raised $8 million in its first round of funding. Investors include Greenhill SAVP, High Peaks Venture Partners and Valhalla Partners. Founded in 2007, it received $1.5 million in seed money. The company recruits authors on various subjects, and then makes its books available as free web-hosted textbooks for any student to use.
The students pay for some premiums like softcovers for under $30, audio books and chapters, self-print options, and other services. The idea, or at least hope, is to make up on scale what they don’t on total cost for each. Faculty can adopt a book written by any of the authors and customize it according to their preferences, knowledge and feedback from their students. The company is also expanding into integrating these books directly into campus learning systems.
An innovative concept, for sure, in these times when students and universities are looking for lower-cost options, but success depends on wide selection, wider adoption, quality control, and, of course, competition from established textbook giants. Other competitors in the space, each with their own twists, include FreeLoadPress and CourseSmart. More info in release.