SOURCE: Flat World Knowledge

April 07, 2011 10:46 ET

Random House, Inc. Invests in Flat World Knowledge

Closes Series B Funding Round for Publisher of Free and Open College Textbooks

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - April 7, 2011) - Random House, Inc., the world's largest English-language trade book publisher, announced today it has become an investor in Flat World Knowledge, a publisher of high-quality college textbooks that students can read free online or purchase in various print and digital formats. 

For Flat World Knowledge, the Random House investment closes the Series B funding round announced in January, which was led by Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments (BDMI), and Bessemer Venture Partners, a top global investment firm. BDMI is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bertelsmann AG, which also is the parent company of Random House. The Random House investment in Flat World Knowledge, whose terms are not disclosed, is a separate, additional investment from the BDMI commitment.

Founded in 2007 by two former publishing executives, Flat World is a commercial pioneer within the growing open content movement, whose mission is to make educational materials freely available online, and higher education more affordable and accessible to students. Flat World publishes the works of top academic authors under a Creative Commons open license which allows students to read complete, peer-reviewed textbooks free online or to purchase a variety of print and digital formats. The company generates revenue through the sale of physical books, e-books for devices like the iPad and Kindle, audio books, print-it-yourself PDF downloads, and interactive study aids.

"Flat World Knowledge is a transformative company in higher-education publishing whose forward-thinking digital initiatives and implementation complement ours. We share a strong drive to make high-quality academically-oriented content widely available and affordable for students and educators, and we welcome the opportunity to invest in Flat World's growth," said Markus Dohle, Chairman and CEO, Random House.

Flat World's open-textbook model grants educators the legal right to control the content to fit their course requirements. Instructors can edit at the word level, move and delete chapters and sections, and insert annotations, video and other multimedia material. With one click, the modified book is automatically formatted and published in multiple print and digital formats which students can buy from their bookstores or on Flat World's website.

"This investment by Random House, the digital and print publisher of many of the world's great authors and their books, sends a strong message to our customers about the quality of our authors' work, and the long-term viability of our business model," said Jeff Shelstad, Flat World Knowledge CEO and Co-Founder. "This is great news for our company and for the future of higher education publishing."

With students spending an average of $1,137 in 2010-11 for textbooks and supplies, according to The College Board, educators, administrators and policymakers are looking to educational entrepreneurs like Flat World Knowledge for new approaches to reducing student textbook costs and improving access to higher education.

To date, more than 1,600 professors at over 900 colleges and universities have adopted Flat World books. Students in 44 countries, including India, the United Kingdom, Australia and China are among the more than 100,000 who will use the company's Knowledge texts this 2010-11 academic year.

About Random House
Random House is the world's trade-book market leader, a commercial and literary powerhouse publishing more than 10,000 new hardcovers, paperbacks, audio, and electronic books annually in the local languages of 16 countries, and selling more than 400 million books a year. More than 25,000 English- German- and Spanish-language titles are available as Random House e-books. Random House is home to many of the world's most popular and culturally admired adult and children's authors, including Nobel laureates and international leaders. It is a company of people who love books and who are passionate supporters of their authors, booksellers, and readers. To learn more, visit

About Flat World Knowledge, Inc. 
Flat World Knowledge is the largest publisher of free and open college textbooks for students worldwide. Committed to making higher education more affordable and accessible, the company provides students with free online access to complete, peer-reviewed textbooks, with options to purchase affordable print and digital formats, including e-books, audio books, PDF downloads and interactive study aids. Flat World's open license and online editing platform enable professors to modify the content and create the "perfect book" for their course. To date, more than 1600 professors at over 900 colleges in 44 countries have used Flat World open textbooks. Backed by top venture capital firms, Flat World Knowledge was named, along with Apple, Facebook and Google, as one of the information industry's "30 to Watch" in 2011 by Outsell, Inc. To learn more, visit; follow us on Facebook at; and on Twitter at

Contact Information

  • Contacts:
    Carole Walters
    Flat World Knowledge
    Email Contact

    Stuart Applebaum
    Random House
    Email Contact