A legitimate archive of free textbooks
March 9, 2013 | 4:19 pm
By Dan Eldridge
I received an email earlier this week from Dr. Frank Lowney, an occasional TeleRead contributor, and the author of The Coming ePublishing Revolution in Higher Education. Dr. Lowney, who is professionally affiliated with Georgia College & State University, most definitely knows his stuff when it comes to college textbooks, and higher education in general.
That’s important to point out, because in his email, Dr. Lowney brought to my attention a fantastic online archive of entirely free, Creative Commons licensed textbooks. (That is to say, a completely legit archive.) And while I am familiar with the company that originally created the archive–they’re known as Flat World Knowledge–I wasn’t aware of the existence of the archive itself.
You’ll find a little over 100 free textbooks in the Flat World Knowledge Book Archive, covering everything from British literature and criminal law to financial accounting and human resource management. (The site that’s hosting the books, however, isn’t actually affiliated with the company.)
For those of you who may be concerned about the legality of such an archive–or about the possibility of malware showing up on your machine after a download–here’s a bit of background about where the collection originally came from, and why it still exists today:
Flat World Knowledge is a textbook publisher, focusing on (mostly entry-level) college textbooks. From its beginning until the end of 2012, FWK licensed all of its books under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0 license. This was an unusual model, but they hoped it would work.
In late 2012, FWK decided that the process of giving away access to their textbooks online wouldn’t produce the returns they were hoping for, and decided to switch to a different model, requiring students to pay for access to the books starting in 2013.
Because the books were still available under a Creative Commons license at the end of 2012, I downloaded them to have copies known to be available under a Creative Commons license. I then repackaged them so that they are available outside of the Flat World Knowledge website, and can be used by anyone under the terms of their Creative Commons license.
Again, click here to access the archive. All the textbooks are packaged as ZIP files; after unpacking the files, you can easily convert them into Mobi or EPUB files with the help of Calibre. (For easy-to-follow instructions on downloading and setting up Calibre, click here to see access chapter one of TeleRead’s Calibre Guide.)
Note: A correction was made to this post on March 10. Dr. Frank Lowney’s professional affiliation is with Georgia College & State University, not Georgia State College & University.