Flat World Knowledge, an opensource textbook publisher offering free online texts and for-pay supplements,is launching an initiative to attract college bookstores to its publishing program.Flat World Knowledge has reached agreements with Barnes & Noble CollegeBookstores, Follet and the National Association of College Stores (Media Solutions) to distribute its textbooks through their member college bookstores beginningin August 2010. The agreement will make FWK's textbooks potentially availablethrough nearly 4,000 college stores.

The agreement also features apilot program offering Flat World Knowledge textbooks through a print-on-demandventure that will launch at the University of Washington Bookstore and the SanDiego State University Bookstore, among others, in August. The agreement willprovide the schools with digital files of FWK textbooks, which are priced asmuch as 75% lower than conventional textbooks. The POD print versions of itsfree online textbooks can be ordered, produced and picked up the same day.

Bryan Pearce, CEO, UniversityBookstore Inc. at Washington University, said, the pilot program will "reduce the cost of materials for our students," and added, "the print-on-demandoption will save bookstores time and money and eliminate the expense ofshipping unused books back to the publisher."

Flat World Knowledge is an unusualtextbook publishing venture that offers free access to its online textbookswhile selling a variety of supplementary materials, including, downloadablechapters, audiobook chapters and study guides. FWK's open source model allowsprofessors to customize and revise their texts-they can add, remove or remixcontent as they please-up towithin days of the beginning of a class. The company works to attract studentconsumers by providing content in a variety of formats and sizes at affordableprices. The firm's downloadable content is available for virtually any devicefrom laptops to mobile devices and FWK also sells low-cost black and white($30) and full color ($60) print versions of its textbooks.

Although the bulk of FWK sales aremade directly to students through its Web site, Eric Frank, founder of FlatWorld Knowledge , said the company, "looked at the bookstore channel and triedto figure out what role they can play." Frank said that many students still usethe college bookstore. "If it's a student receiving financial aid, then they'vegot to go to the college bookstore. So with our program we can offer stores afast turnaround on our titles; the store becomes another choice available tostudents and there's a healthy profit margin for the stores. It keeps studentscoming in the store and the textbooks are cheaper. It's a win win."

Although the pilot programs willstart in summer school, Frank said he expects to have 40 to 50 stories sellingFWK textbooks by the fall semester.

Mark Nelson, v-p at NACS MediaSolutions, praised the FWK program and said that it "is providing necessaryinnovation that could make the open textbook movement more viable and lead toother fundamental changes in the textbook market."