Full Interview: Eric Frank on Open Textbooks

books
original image by House of Sims

Earlier this month, I wrote about the future of textbooks -- if traditional hard-bound books might someday be replaced be electronic editions, or if the industry might go the way of music and movies, with many people downloading pirated versions from peer-to-peer services like Bittorrent.

After that blog post, the Spark community weighed in on the future of the textbook. Jack Andrew Chapman wrote:

In two of my units we don't have textbooks. Instead the lecturer uploads PDFs of book chapters and journal articles to the University's "Learning Management System"

Lianne said:

I think eTextbooks would be a good idea. For some courses. For example, in literature or history classes, and the like. But for Maths and Sciences? Forget it

And Karim Kanji wrote:

I know that every year I was at York University I had to purchase NEWER versions of the same textbook. Why? We were told that the older (one year old) texts were outdated and needed updating. The real truth: Professors had written these texts and where supplementing their "teaching" income by also selling "newer" textbooks.

Well, recently Nora talked to Eric Frank, the co-founder of one company that's trying to reinvent the textbook publishing industry. The company is called Flat World Knowledge, and it publishes "open textbooks" which are free works that can be edited, updated, and remixed into custom course materials." These open textbooks are free to read online, but if you want, say, a printed copy or an audio version, you'll have to pay.

A shorter version of Nora's interview with Eric will air on Episode 84 of Spark, but you can hear the full, uncut interview if you download the MP3.

Also, if your textbook needs aren't covered by Flat World Knowledge, the Gadgetwise blog from the New York Times suggests checking out the free Bigwords iPhone app for textbook price comparison.

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