How can it be open if it’s closed?

Beach Closed

CC-BY-NC-SA by Nick Jeffery on Flickr

Flatworld Knowledge recently announced they will no longer be offering open textbooks for free. Open textbooks are texts that have been copyrighted under an open licensing model.

Creative Commons and other open licensing options allow the author to retain copyright while permitting users to freely use their media and depending on the license (as with the above photo) to adapt the content to meet their needs, as long as they are given credit / attribution, use the material for non-commercial purposes, and share under a similar license – as with this blog.

According to Jennifer Howard at The Chronicle, “as of January 1, 2012, Flatworld Knowledge, which used to describe itself as the world’s largest publisher of free and open textbooks online will no longer offer content at no charge”.

Flatworld Knowledge has been offering open licensed textbook versions for various e-readers (e.g. Nook, Kindle) along with ancillary materials for a relatively low cost ($20 – $25) in comparison to some commercially available textbooks upwards of $200 per text. Certainly this has been at great savings to the student.

But until now, they had also offered the free text version available as well. This meant no student enrolled in the course where their instructor adopted Flatworld Knowledge books, would be without a text. I must admit to having some difficulty understanding this new open but not free business model. If its open but not free – maybe its closed?


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