Textbook publisher Flat World says number of students using its textbooks doubled over previous year, seven out of 10 student users to be consuming digital textbooks during new academic year

IRVINGTON, New York , August 24, 2011 (press release) – Flat World Knowledge, the largest commercial publisher of free and open college textbooks, today announced 7 out of 10 of its student users will be consuming digital textbooks during the new academic year that begins this month, far ahead of the industry curve.

The publisher also announced that the overall number of students using its textbooks has doubled, compared to last year. For the 2011/2012 school year, 300,000 students at more than 2,000 colleges are expected to access its textbooks across a wide spectrum of digital and print formats.

While the National Association of College Stores estimates that e-textbooks will be 10 to 15 percent of textbook sales by fall 2012, Flat World's disruptive business model is driving digital uptake among students faster.

"Our view is that it's not about print vs. digital or which tablet will dominate," said Jeff Shelstad, CEO and Co-Founder of Flat World Knowledge. "Students want affordable, portable textbooks, not an expensive, interactive experience that self-destructs in six months. We're seeing a more rapid shift to digital because we've got the right model for an increasingly digital world."

The right model is based on a "platform agnostic, price appropriate" approach to publishing that allows the company to publish a textbook one time and automatically make it available in multiple formats at significantly lower costs than traditional publishers with expensive legacy systems to protect. Students can choose from seven formats, all available for $40 or less. Formats include print, an online reader, e-books for the iPad, Kindle and other e-readers, audiobooks, and downloadable PDFs.

All-Access Pass offers digital bookshelf that never expires

Recognizing an increasingly diverse and mobile student population that wants portable content they can read on a laptop, tablet or smartphone, Flat World is launching a new product this fall, the All-Access Pass. A single purchase of $29.95 gives students unlimited access to their textbook and interactive study aids in a "digital bookshelf" suite of formats, along with low-cost print options. Like all of Flat World's content, the material is free of digital rights management (DRM) restrictions and never expires.

Growing catalog, more control in the hands of instructors

For faculty, digital technology offers new ways to experiment with course content and incorporate their own contributions. Flat World's MIYO (Make It Your Own) editing platform allows professors to freely edit the textbook by moving or deleting chapters and sections; inserting video and hyperlinks; uploading Word and PDF documents; adding notes and exercises; editing sentences; and incorporating other openly-licensed material. Once a professor's changes are saved, MIYO automatically reformats and publishes the new version in a range of formats for that professor's use. The company estimates 40 percent of faculty will take advantage of MIYO this academic year.

New this fall, instructors have the option to go beyond using their MIYO version in their own classroom. They can now share it in the catalog for faculty anywhere in the world to adopt. They can also earn royalties on adoptions outside their institution.

Flat World's catalog has tripled in size since 2009, and is on track to have books for the 125 highest-enrolled courses within two years. Recent titles include American Government and Politics in the Information Age, Elementary Algebra, Introductory Chemistry and International Business.

Expanding institutional licensing to improve student success

Following the initial success of a textbook licensing pilot with Virginia State University's Reginald F. Lewis School of Business last year, Flat World is now developing textbook licensing partnerships across higher education, including traditional academic institutions, distance and adult learning programs and for-profit colleges.

Delivering textbooks at the institutional level via a per student, per course site license that provides students immediate, unlimited digital access to their texts can significantly lower costs for students and institutions and improve retention and graduation rates, critical needs facing higher education and the U.S. economy, Shelstad said.

"Early indications are that more students are staying in these courses and that the ones taking advantage of the seat license via a laptop, personal computer or smartphone earned a full grade higher than those that don't," said Andrew Feldstein, assistant professor of marketing at VSU.

About Flat World Knowledge, Inc.

Founded in 2007, Flat World Knowledge is the largest commercial publisher of free and open college textbooks for students worldwide. Committed to making higher education more affordable and accessible, the company publishes expert-authored textbooks that are available in a variety of print and digital formats, including a free online reader. To date, our textbooks are used at over 2,000 colleges in 44 countries. Backed by top venture capital firms, Flat World Knowledge was named one of the information industry's "30 to Watch" in 2011, along with Apple, Facebook and Google, by Outsell, Inc. To learn more, visit www.flatworldknowledge.com; follow us on Twitter @flat_world; and on Facebook at facebook.com/flatworldknowledge.

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