Guest Column: What You Can Learn From Open Access
The version Flat World uses is called an "Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike" license. Users are free to share and remix our textbooks, if they attribute the work to the author, don't use the work for commercial purposes, and distribute their remixed version under the original license. Students can access free Web-hosted books, or buy print and DRM-free digital versions that never expire and can be transferred from device to device. We generate revenue through the sale of physical books, e-books for the iPad or Kindle, audio books, print-it-yourself PDF downloads and interactive study aids for $40 or less.
Professors who adopt our books can move or delete chapters and sections; upload Word or PDF files; add notes and exercises; insert video and hyperlinks; edit sentences; and incorporate other content that is free to reuse under a Creative Commons license. Their changes are automatically reformatted and published in multiple print and digital formats without human intervention.
The open model offers authors a more consistent revenue stream over time, since sales don't drop dramatically after the first year due to all the available substitutes.
An Enterprise of Sharing
At its core, education is an enterprise of sharing. Successful teachers are successful sharers. When teachers withhold knowledge from students or restrict access to information or feedback, they fail as educators.
Therefore, the restrictive philosophy of "all rights reserved" and DRM is contrary to education and sharing. Open textbooks are a better fit for education and the new media universe, where consumers demand access to information anytime, anywhere, on any device.
The free and open approach is good for business. Since publishing our first books in March 2009, more than 1,600 educators at 900 institutions in 44 countries have used Flat World open textbooks.
Businesses in other industries are embracing the notion of sharing and giving things away. Their success stories can be found in "Free, The Future of A Radical Price," by Wired magazine Editor Chris Anderson, and "The Mesh," by Lisa Gansky, founder and CEO of multiple Internet companies, including Ofoto. BB