Do you remember college and all those textbooks you couldn't sell back to the bookstore? I do. I own one of the most expensive doorstop collections in existence. For this very reason, Flat World Knowledge is announcing record numbers on their open text book program. As of this coming September, more than 40,000 college students at more than 400 colleges will access the publisher's e-learning services and textbooks. Business and economics professors from across the country are flocking to the site to meet their students' needs. Given that the program started in Spring 2009, with only 1000 textbooks sold to 30 colleges, the growth for Fall 2009 is phenomenal.

Says Flat World Knowledge co-founder Eric Frank, "We'll save college students and their families nearly $3 million in textbook expenses this semester and in the next 12 to 15 months we'll be expanding subject matter to incorporate genetics, psychology, sociology and math."

The demand for digital textbooks has grown tremendously, and Flat World has capitalized on this demand by offering students free online web browsing as well as $20 PDF versions, $30 black and white printed versions, $40 audio versions and $60 color print versions. The company also gains revenue through the sale of audio study guides, quizzes and flash cards.

When asked about the relationship between open textbooks and open courseware, Frank explained, "We embrace accessibility to education, but the one thing missing in many of these courses is the textbook itself. We're trying to bridge that gap with something inexpensive for students and modifiable for faculty."

Flat World Knowledge's textbooks are available for online viewing under a Creative Commons license, and educators have the freedom to edit and change them to suit their classroom needs. The company also offers premium PDF versions and is working on additional formats for the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader stores. However, these proprietary versions are certainly not the focus.

Says Frank, "Traditional textbooks have clearly failed students and instructors. Similarly, digital textbook trials that force a single format, device, or price point will also fail. No single e-reading format or device will ever satisfy all students. Our commercial open-source textbook approach puts control and the power of choice in the hands of students and instructors."

Rather than focusing on university partnerships, the company is committed to seeking out the best possible authors. Says Frank, "We're interested in focusing on the authors as part of our brand. For instance, Preston McAfee wrote one of our micro-economics books. If you work with the best authors, schools respond."

To see if your school is using Flat World Knowledge books, visit the company website.

For more college and university resources, check out Jolie O'Dell's ReadWriteWeb Back-to-School apps, or if you're researching upcoming courses, check out Courseopedia.