Flat World Knowledge Introduces "Make It Your Own" Textbook Platform
(Press Release) IRVINGTON, NY, April 18, 2011—Flat World Knowledge, the largest publisher of free and open college textbooks for students worldwide, today announced the release of a new platform called MIYO (Make It Your Own). The fully-automated system gives professors greater control over textbook content, and the ability, with one click, to make their modified book available to students free online or in multiple, low-cost digital and print formats.
MIYO (mee-oh) transforms a static textbook into an adaptable learning platform by combining a digital-first architecture with Flat World's open licensing model that grants faculty the right to revise, remix and share its textbooks.
"Unlike legacy publishing systems, MIYO gives professors the freedom to change what they don't like in a text, and add the things they've always wanted to help them achieve their teaching objectives," said Eric Frank, president and co-founder of Flat World Knowledge.
The new system uses familiar drag-and-drop and click features that allow instructors to easily move or delete chapters and sections; upload Word and PDF documents; add notes and exercises; insert video and hyperlinks; edit sentences; and incorporate other content that is free to reuse under a Creative Commons open license.
Once a professor's changes are saved, MIYO automatically reformats and publishes the new version in multiple formats without any human intervention. Contributors' edits are identified and highlighted. In future releases, instructors will have the ability to mix titles from Flat World's catalog. Planned for later this year, they will be able to make their derivatives available to faculty outside their institution.
Flat World's open textbook model gives students the choice to read a free web-hosted book or buy low-cost formats that fit their learning style and budget. Softcover books, e-books for the iPad or Kindle, audio books, print-it-yourself PDF downloads and interactive study aids are available for $40 or less at their bookstore or through the publisher.
DRM-free (digital rights management) digital files can be freely transferred from device to device, and never expire, so students have access to their textbooks anytime, anywhere.
No more textbook tradeoff
"With a traditional textbook, I always struggle with how much I follow the book and how I want to teach the course-it's a tradeoff," said Eric Malm, assistant professor of economics and business administration at Cabrini College, near Philadelphia. "Flat World lets me add my own analysis to the material, so now the book's a living case study of everything we discuss in class. And I'm more confident that students read it because they can afford it."
Ross Gittell, professor of management at the University of New Hampshire's Whittemore School of Business & Economics, and two colleagues, created their own version of Exploring Business by Karen Collins by writing chapters on sustainability and business and public policy-critical issues in contemporary business that didn't appear in the original text.
For a leadership and supervision course, Dr. Rita Quinton, associate vice president of Daytona State College, selected topics from chapters in Principles of Management, bundled them for her students, and developed quizzes and activities.
"It's great to be able to build a textbook based on the learning outcomes for the course," said Dr. Quinton. "The material is relevant and the students love having all the format choices."
Open source software: the brain behind the book
In designing MIYO, the development team, led by Jon Williams, chief technology officer, took advantage of open source software to enable full editing capabilities without the limitations found in other customization systems.
Williams and team solved a major dilemma in textbook publishing—what happens to the professor's customized book when the author makes updates?
"We figured out how to create a 'live edition' of a book so authors and professors will always be in lockstep," said Williams, who was formerly CTO for iVillage, a division of NBC Universal, and Kaplan Test Prep and Admission. "Now, if professors want to integrate authors' changes, they can, without redoing their edits."
Instructors can edit from any browser, without downloading a proprietary editing tool, and instantly see how their changes will look when the book is printed, downloaded or viewed online. The edited books are then stored in an XML repository that allows for searching any part of the text in milliseconds, versus opening up an entire book file each time.
Contributors' modifications are captured in a reportable format which provides authors with valuable feedback on how faculty and students are actually using their books. As a result, authors are better equipped to make changes to new editions.
"MIYO redefines what a textbook is and can be," said Williams. "And it gives us the framework to continuously improve our customers' experience with our products and bring new efficiencies to our business-key factors to our future growth."
To date, nearly one third of Flat World's faculty adopters have customized their textbooks. The company expects that 50 percent or more will make use of MIYO during the next academic year.
About Flat World Knowledge, Inc.
Flat World Knowledge is the largest publisher of free and open college textbooks for students worldwide. Committed to making higher education more affordable and accessible, the company provides students with free online access to complete, peer-reviewed textbooks, with options to purchase affordable print and digital formats, including e-books, audio books, PDF downloads and interactive study aids. Flat World's open license and online editing platform enable professors to modify the content and create the "perfect book" for their course. To date, more than 1,600 professors at over 900 colleges in 44 countries have used Flat World open textbooks. Backed by top venture capital firms, Flat World Knowledge was named, along with Apple, Facebook and Google, as one of the information industry's "30 to Watch" in 2011 by Outsell, Inc.