Textbook prices have risen steadily over the past two decades to the point where the average student now pays $900 a year, an expense that typically isn’t covered by financial aid. But come September, publishing upstart Flat World Knowledge will offer a much more appealing price point, reports Time magazine: Its books will be free. The firm, based in Nyack, N.Y., launched a pilot project July 14 to supply four business and economics textbooks online at no charge to several hundred undergraduates on at least 15 campuses nationwide. By giving away content through the web, Flat World aims to upend the $5.5 billion textbook industry. "Nobody’s satisfied with the status quo. Students, faculty, authors—their feelings all range from ambivalent to extremely unhappy," says Flat World founder Eric Frank, a former executive at Prentice Hall, the nation’s largest textbook publisher. "Why not try something different?" Flat World’s offerings won’t differ much from a typical textbook in content. All have been authored by established academics and peer-reviewed before publication. It’s the distribution method that is a radical change. Video and audio clips are embedded in most texts, often adding timely examples from real-life practitioners. Plus, the texts are produced on an open-source platform, meaning they can be updated easily and professors can customize each textbook to match a particular lesson plan…

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