The hefty cost of university textbooks now averages $900 per student each year, and financial aid can't be counted on to cover the expense. But starting in September, one publisher will be offering its textbooks online—for free, Time reports. "Nobody's satisfied with the status quo," said the founder of Flat World, a start-up with plans to shake up the $5.5 billion industry.
Instead of a relying on advertising, Flat World hopes to make money by selling extras on its site such as study guides and podcasts. The online texts themselves will feature embedded video and audio clips and will be easy for authors to update. But some critics wonder how Flat World will attract professors as authors. "I just don't see how they will be able to offer equal compensation," said one former school president. "Their utopian approach is based on the hope that real economics don't apply."