SOURCE: Flat World Knowledge

Flat World Knowledge

August 24, 2010 04:03 ET

Virginia State University and Flat World Knowledge Sign Groundbreaking Textbook Licensing Agreement

New Approach to Textbook Procurement Removes Major Cost Barrier to College, Points Way to New Revenue Model for Publishers

PETERSBURG, VA and IRVINGTON, NY--(Marketwire - August 24, 2010) - Virginia State University's Reginald F. Lewis School of Business today announced a groundbreaking textbook licensing agreement with Flat World Knowledge, a leading publisher of commercial, openly-licensed college textbooks. As part of a broad initiative to deliver an integrated core business curriculum to all its students, the business school has purchased a digital site license for Flat World textbooks that's cost-effective, environmentally sustainable and attuned to the demands of an increasingly mobile generation.

The agreement will also play a key role in the business school's "revolution of excellence" goal to increase retention and graduation rates at the historically black university through technology-based solutions. The Flat World agreement removes textbook costs as a barrier to higher education. Many conventional textbooks cost more than $200, and students often spend $1,000 or more per year on textbooks. The cost of textbooks is also a major reason that many students drop out of college, according to a Public Agenda research report for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

"We are in the business of education and must seek innovative ways to ensure the success of our students, especially during these times of severe budget cuts and economic uncertainty," said Dr. Keith T. Miller, VSU President. "The licensing agreement with Flat World Knowledge meets the needs of our business students and faculty for high-quality, affordable textbooks, and serves as a model for how academic institutions and innovative publishers can partner to solve critical higher education issues."

Under the agreement, VSU will purchase seat licenses for students enrolled in eight courses in the core business curriculum. More courses will be added next year. Each site license will cost VSU $20 per student per course for digital access to all learning content for the core business curriculum, while preserving affordable print options for students.

The licensing model approaches textbooks as intellectual property that can be delivered in a variety of formats for greater convenience and at a more affordable price. VSU students and faculty will have choices to access and use the texts in ways that aren't possible with conventional textbooks sold under a traditional publishing business model.

Students, faculty benefit from format choices, content control
Students can read their textbooks in the format that best fits their individual learning style. The pre-paid license includes web, PDF, audio and e-reader versions for the iPad, Kindle and other e-readers. Online and interactive study aids are also included. Students with print disabilities will have access to the texts in DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) and BRF (Braille Ready Format) formats.

The digital files do not have an expiration date nor are they encumbered with digital rights management (DRM) copy-protection, giving students unprecedented freedom to transfer the content from device to device for as long as they wish, even after they graduate. For students who prefer a physical book, softcover textbooks will also be available to VSU students for $30.

VSU faculty will benefit from Flat World's open Creative Commons license, which unlike an "all rights reserved" copyright license, transfers control of the content to faculty. Flat World provides a suite of online editing tools that makes it easy for faculty to customize and tailor a textbook to meet their individual teaching goals.

VSU students can save more than $900 per year
While the university is covering the initial roll-out costs, going forward VSU will explore various options to transfer the license costs to students. Depending on their course load, VSU estimates that students could save $900 or more per year on textbooks.

"Less than 50 percent of our students buy textbooks because they can't afford them, and this causes students to fall behind," said Dr. Mirta Martin, dean of VSU's School of Business. "Through this licensing model we hope to break that cycle, improve retention and graduation rates, and create a pipeline of student success. Our students have always had the ability and intellect, now they will have the resources."

"The economics of textbooks is hurting students, faculty, institutions and authors," said Eric Frank, president and co-founder of Flat World Knowledge. "This new model lowers the cost barrier to college, increases choices for students, and gives faculty more control over the content they use in their classes. This new approach to textbook publishing also provides authors an opportunity to earn fair compensation for their hard work. And it points the way to a sustainable revenue model for a new publisher in the 21st century."

Virginia State University
Virginia State University, America's first fully state supported four-year institution of higher learning for Blacks, is a comprehensive university and one of two land-grant institutions in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Its mission is to promote and sustain academic programs that integrate instruction, research, and extension/public service in a design most responsive to the needs and endeavors of individuals and groups within its scope of influence. Ultimately, the University is dedicated to the promotion of knowledgeable, perceptive, and humane citizens -- secure in their self-awareness, equipped for personal fulfillment, sensitive to the needs and aspirations of others, and committed to assuming productive roles in a challenging and ever-changing global society. www.vsu.edu

Reginald F. Lewis School of Business
The Virginia State University Reginald F. Lewis School of Business is committed to partnering with industry for mutual investment in the development of leaders and critical thinkers for the 21st century. We attract regional, national and international students, who are underrepresented in the business community, and provide them with a competitive advantage in the global marketplace. Our integrated curriculum emphasizes leadership, customer focus, adaptability, social responsibility and the strategic application of new technologies for practical business solutions. Faculty members are student-centric scholars and practitioners who prepare students to acquire professional competencies in communication, collaboration and problem-solving skills. The faculty exemplify teaching, research and service excellence through the integration of theoretical and experiential knowledge, student mentoring, intellectual contributions, and university and community involvement.

Flat World Knowledge, Inc.
Founded in 2007 by senior textbook industry executives, privately-held Flat World Knowledge is a leading publisher of free and open textbooks for higher education. Written by the world's top scholars, Flat World books are peer-reviewed, and professionally edited and developed. Educators have the freedom to use the books as-is, or they can customize them to suit their course requirements. Students can access the books for free online, or purchase low-cost print-on-demand, PDF, audio and e-reader formats, as well as study aids at a fraction of the cost of traditional textbooks. More information about Flat World Knowledge is available at http://www.flatworldknowledge.com

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