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There may be no such thing as a free lunch, according to neoclassical economists, but now there are free textbooks.  And, ironically enough, many of them are for Principles of Economics courses.  From Epicenter:

What did you do this summer? Flat World Knowledge stayed busy on campus and now has 40 times as many students and more than 10 times the colleges using their freemium, open-source digital textbooks. And they did it the old-fashioned way — one professor at a time.

After a sort of beta earlier this year, Flat World is set to announce on Thursday that over 40,000 college students at more than 400 colleges are going to be using their digital, DRM-free textbooks in the Fall semester, up from 1,000 in 30 colleges in the Spring.

More on Flat World Knowledge and free textbooks here and here, with a little bit on the economics of the textbook industry:

In a nutshell, there is a huge, inelastic demand for college texts, even though textbook prices are high. Because of this there is a lot of piracy and a robust secondary market for textbooks — but not for long, because they are updated every couple of years, rendering old editions virtually worthless.

It’ll be interesting to watch this trend unfold…


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