Flat World Knowledge (Critical Incident)

Beal, B. D., & Tarter, J. 2013. Flat World Knowledge: How to pay authors to write free textbooks? Journal of Critical Incidents, 6: 67-70. [PDF, journal]


Jeff Shelstad, together with Eric Frank, founded FWK in 2007 with the intention of disrupting and reinventing the college textbook market. FWK’s business model was designed to deliver quality college textbooks for free and then charge for alternative methods of access.

Jeff had argued that one of the most revolutionary aspects of FWK’s business model was the potential to make the process of writing textbooks cumulative. He envisioned a situation in which the company would produce one textbook for a particular subject or class that would be modify in different ways by the faculty who adopted it. Derivative versions of the text would then become part of FWK’s catalog and could be adopted by future faculty (Shelstad, 2011).

The critical incident focuses on Jeff’s decision to provide incentives to faculty to modify existing FWK textbooks and make those modifications available to other faculty.

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