Flat World Knowledge

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FormerlyFlat World Knowledge
HeadquartersBoston, MA, United States
Area served
Key people
Alastair Adam, Co-CEO; John Eielson, Co-CEO

FlatWorld is a publisher of college-level textbooks and educational supplements for a worldwide audience[1][2][3][4] founded in 2007 as Flat World Knowledge by Eric Frank and Jeff Shelstad.[5] It was acquired at the end of 2016 by Alastair Adam and John Eielson and its company headquarters was moved from Washington, DC to Boston, MA. Following this acquisition, the company rebranded as FlatWorld.

Company history[edit]

In 2007, Flat World Knowledge was founded by Jeff Shelstad and Eric Frank in Nyack, New York.[6] By August 2009, Flat World textbooks had been adopted at 400 colleges for use by 40,000 students.[7][8] In 2010, Flat World Knowledge moved from Nyack, New York to Irvington, New York.[9] That year, Flat World Knowledge claimed that they would save[10] 150,000 college students $12 million in textbook costs in the 2010–2011 school year after adoptions by more than 1,300 educators as of August 2010.[11]

FlatWorld secured $11.5 million in investments through 2010, including an initial $700k angel investment.[12][13][14][15]

In January 2011, $15 million in Series B funding led by Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments (BDMI), a wholly owned subsidiary of Bertelsmann AG, and Bessemer Venture Partners was announced. Returning investors for Series B funding include Valhalla Partners, GSA Venture Partners (formerly Greenhill SAVP),[16] Primary Venture Partners and several angel investors.[17][18][19] Random House also announced an investment in Flat World Knowledge in April, 2011.[20][21]

The company originally offered every textbook published free using online delivery under the open content paradigm,[22][23] but in November 2012, the company announced that it would no longer offer free access to textbooks.[24]

In late 2016, Flat World Knowledge was acquired by Alastair Adam and John Eielson and rebranded as FlatWorld.

Accessibility and regulatory issues[edit]

Flat World Knowledge textbooks have been developed for accessible publishing. Flat World Knowledge partnered with Bookshare to provide books using an electronic Braille format.[25] Flat World was the first postsecondary textbook publisher to recognize and alleviate this problem."[26]


Digital textbook and course material formats offer sustainability advantages over traditional paper textbooks.[27][28] According to a publishing industry study, an estimated "net [carbon] emission of 8.85 pounds per book [is created for each paper book] sold to consumers."[29] In 2010-2011, approximately 57.5% of students using FlatWorld texts opted for entirely digital delivery. As of fall 2011, 70% of students opt for digital formats,[30] significantly reducing the ecologic footprint from textbook use when compared to the historic paper textbook format.[31][32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lim, Ronald S. "The World is Flat – Even in Publishing." Manila Bulletin. October 1, 2010.
  2. ^ Center for Educational Technology. "Shaping the Future: Reconstructing the Textbook in the Digital Age." Eric Frank, Presenter. “Is There Still Such a Thing as a Free Lunch? Economic Models for Content on the Web,” and “Mommy, What’s a Book? The Nature of the Books of the Future.” Tel Aviv, Israel, March 27–28.
  3. ^ "Flat World Knowledge Usage by Country." WebCite Archive Page. March 29, 2011.
  4. ^ Hampson, Keith. "Interview: Ed Tech Leader, Jon Williams of Flat World Knowledge." Higher Education Management Group via Bloomberg Businessweek Business Exchange. May 2, 2011.
  5. ^ Lener, Edward and Cy Dillon. "Building a Better Model: Eric Frank on Flat World Knowledge." Virginia Libraries. Jan–Feb–Mar 2010, pp. 5–9.
  6. ^ Carpenter, Mason A. "Flat World Knowledge: Creating a Global Revolution in College Textbooks!" Social Science Research Network. Case abstract available at SSRN 1588144.
  7. ^ Oshiro, Dana. "Open Textbooks Gaining Ground: Flat World in 400 Colleges." Archived 2010-07-02 at the Wayback Machine Read Write Web. August 20, 2009.
  8. ^ Hoover, Lisa. "Flat World Knowledge Offers Open Source-Style College Textbooks." Gigaom Ostatic. March 25, 2009.
  9. ^ Ferris, Marc. "Irvington Publishers Shaking Up the Textbook Industry." Archived 2011-07-15 at the Wayback Machine Rivertowns Patch. October 20, 2010.
  10. ^ Kolowich, Steve. "A Call for Open Textbooks." Inside Higher Ed. October 1, 2010.
  11. ^ Walters, Carole. "150,000 College Students to Save $12 Million Using Flat World Knowledge Open Textbooks for 2010/2011 Academic Year: Transformative New Publishing Model Gaining Traction With Faculty, Students, Authors." Marketwire. August 23, 2010.
  12. ^ Business Headlines. "Flat World Knowledge Secures $700,000 in Funding." EdNet Insight. October 21, 2008.
  13. ^ Rosenberg, Dave. "Maker of 'open,' free textbooks raises $8 million." Cnet.com. March 26, 2009.
  14. ^ Ricketts, Camille. "Flat World Knowledge Lands $8M for Online College Textbooks." VentureBeat. March 24, 2009.
  15. ^ Walters, Carole. Flat World Knowledge CEO Jeff Shelstad to Speak at the Venture Capital in Education Summit 2010. Archived 2011-07-15 at the Wayback Machine Pressitt. December 2, 2010.
  16. ^ GSA Venture Partners. Focus. Archived 2010-11-23 at the Wayback Machine "We serve entrepreneurs who transform industries and build great companies. As active, long-term partners to our entrepreneurs, we contribute capital, strategic advice, and a deep network of relationships to fuel their success." 2011.
  17. ^ Marketwire. "Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments and Bessemer Venture Partners Invest $15 Million in Flat World Knowledge[dead link] Open Textbook Publisher Presents Viable Alternative to Traditional Industry." MSNBC. January 20, 2011.
  18. ^ Purkiss, Alan. "Bertelsmann Puts Cash Into College Textbook Publisher, FT Says." Bloomberg. January 20, 2011.
  19. ^ Edgecliffe-Johnson, Andrew. "Bertelsmann Backs Open Textbook Publisher." Financial Times. January 20, 2011.
  20. ^ Schaffhauser, Dian. "Open Textbook Publisher Flat World Knowledge Gets Random House Investment." Campus Technology via WebCitation.org. April 8, 2011.
  21. ^ Marketwire. "Random House, Inc. Invests in Flat World Knowledge:[dead link] Closes Series B Funding Round for Publisher of Free and Open College Textbooks." MSNBC.com. April 7, 2011.
  22. ^ Flat World Knowledge [1] with company story.
  23. ^ Wong, Chin. "Textbooks for free." Manila Standard Today. September 28, 2010.
  24. ^ Howard, Jennifer. "Flat World Knowledge to Drop Free Access to Textbooks". Chronicle of Higher Education. Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  25. ^ Kerscher, George, and Jim Fruchterman. "The Soundproof Book: Exploration of Rights conflict and Access to Commercial EBooks for People with Disabilities." DAISY Consortium. Accessed January 2, 2011.
  26. ^ Bookshare. "Flat World Knowledge Partners with Bookshare: Breakthrough Agreement Reduces Costs for Postsecondary Institutions; Improves Timely Access to Core Textbooks in Accessible Formats." Joint Press Release. December 14, 2009.
  27. ^ Johnson, Bryce. "Textbooks: Dead Trees in a Backpack." Archived 2011-07-10 at the Wayback Machine Earth911.com. August 31, 2007.
  28. ^ Chowdhury, Gobinda. "Carbon Footprint of the Knowledge Sector: What's the Future?." Journal of Documentation 66, no. 6 December 2010 pp. 934-946.
  29. ^ Milliot, Jim "Toward a Greener Future. (Cover story)." Publishers Weekly 255, no. 10 March 10, 2008 pp. 26–32.
  30. ^ Outsell, Inc. "Flat World Knowledge Doubles Growth, Outpaces Digital Textbook Trend." Outsell Headlines. August 24, 2011.
  31. ^ Kolowich, Steve. "Students Face New Textbook Picks: Rent vs. Buy, Print vs. e-Book." (Analog innovations section) USA Today. August 31, 2010.
  32. ^ Cooper, Tanika. "Free Online Textbooks Becoming a Reality." Daily Nebraskan, University of Nebraska, via UWire: The College Network. July 26, 2010.

External links[edit]