Rhonda Scott, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Chemistry Department, is taking part in a groundbreaking new concept in the world of textbooks—she’s giving hers away for free.
Scott was the coauthor of a college-level Survey of Chemistry textbook, The Basics of General, Organic, and Biological Chemistry, along with David Ball, Ph.D., of Cleveland State University and John Hill, Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. A biochemist, Scott’s main contribution to the book was writing chapters 16 through 20, as they related to biochemistry.
It’s all part of an innovative marketing concept from Flat World Knowledge—a company that publishes free electronic versions of books on its website, flatworldknowledge.com. Flat World makes its money from anything that isn’t a book. Study materials, instructor resources, and printed copies of books are all for sale. When instructors adopt a textbook, they can modify it for their classrooms, adding their own notes and deleting information they find irrelevant to their curricula.
Scott’s book—although free to use and completely electronic—has as much academic integrity as a printed textbook. Basics underwent the scrutiny of 23 peer reviewers from around the country, and several more sets of eyes from the Flat World team edited the book before it was made available in March 2011.
The book was an eight-year-long project and had previously been published by another textbook company as a two-semester book. But the publisher decided to drop the book when it was up for another edition. It was lead author David Ball that connected with Flat World and jumped at the idea of forging new territory in academia. The three authors condensed the two-semester book into a one-semester book, useful for nursing, allied health, and general education programs.
Scott is already finding advantages to the online nature of the book. The textbook authors can see the instructors’ modifications to the book and may include some of their corrections as they see fit. Truly a “live” document, Scott says that some pictures and graphics were added after the book’s publication date.
“Being the format that it is, if someone finds an error, we can correct it quickly,” says Scott. “It’s interesting to be in on something new.”