Open content,  Social Objects

FlatWorld Knowledge – the publisher I’ve been waiting for?

David Wiley is part of a startup called FlatWorld Knowledge. Their aim is to release digital textbooks free of charge, with students paying for the print copy if they want. What is more interesting though is the way they take the notion of the text book and make it more of a social object. So the educator can edit the book for their class, the student can interact with other students around it, and people can sell related services and content. In fact, when you view their little cartoons it makes you realise just how limited the traditional text book model is in education. Why didn’t we do this years ago?

From my point of view, I have a book proposal and want a publisher. I am currently with Routledge, but they have a traditional attitude to publishing, they wouldn’t even let me put a couple of chapters up on this blog. So what I want is a publisher who will allow me to give away the digital version, but still charge for the print version. So I contacted FlatEarth, but it seems that at the moment they’re just focusing on Business books, as they’re in startup mode. Makes sense I suppose, but it means I’ll either have to find another publisher or wait for them to open up their portfolio a bit. Does anyone know a publisher who isn’t living in the dark ages?


  • Martin

    Yes, I thought about Lulu, but here’s where I get a bit hypocritical – despite all my claims of democratisation, I’m still a bit snobbish about self-publishing books. So, at the moment, I still want a publisher to accept the book proposal as a kind of authentication. Pathetic isn’t it? FlatWorld operate like a traditional publisher in this sense.

  • AJ Cann

    I don’t think an academic institution would give you any more credit for publishing with Flatworld than they would with Lulu, c.f. Wiley, Routledge, Elsevier, etc. With Lulu, you can still get an ISBN and professional looking hard copies to flash around and leave on your desk. I don’t think there’s any snob-value deficit for the university 😉

  • Martin

    It wasn’t really the university I was thinking of, although that is an issue. You could at least make the argument that FlatWorld is peer reviewed, which isn’t the case with Lulu. It’s more to do with my own fragile ego…

  • Gordon Rogers

    You might want to look into Amazon’s new Digital Text Platform (, which is billed as “is a fast and easy self-publishing tool that lets you upload and format your books for sale in the Kindle Store.”
    Not sure if they accept non-US content yet, since the Kindle is currently only available in the US. But it’s only a matter of time until it becomes available in other countries. And the textbook business one that is likely to undergo significant disruption thanks to innovations like the Kindle. More on this, including a link to your post, in my post at
    Gordon Rogers

  • Beth Campbell

    I’m a publisher (health care education, not technical education). I’ve also been watching Flat World Knowledge, with much interest.
    I would love to talk off-line and brainstorm some of these apparently radical ideas. My company is actually looking for an innovative approach to publishing, but it always comes down to the business model — how are you going to make the money??!!
    But clearly there has to be a better way of doing things. Let me know if you want to chat…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *