Company makes free textbooks
CEO says just because tuition
increases doesn't mean textbook prices should too
Jessica Frizen / News Editor
Sophomore Brian Shenkin said the most he's ever spent on
textbooks is $500, as he carried a stack of about seven
textbooks to the front of the campus shop. As a worker in
Elon's campus bookstore for two and a half years, senior
Molly Steinberg said she's seen a student pay as much as
$1,000 for textbooks in a single semester.
The amounts that students pay for textbooks each year may
drastically decrease over the next few years due to a new
textbook company that is out to sell a new type of textbook:
"With the cost of college skyrocketing and with aid not
keeping pace, we want to see as many students as possible
have free textbooks," said Tom Doran, CEO and founder of
Freeload Press. "(Textbooks) are too important to go
without . . . we're seeing textbook purchases declining
as tuition increases."
Freeload Press, which was created in St. Paul, Minn., gave
its downloadable college textbooks a test run this past
Fifty-one instructors from 20 colleges used the
company's e-books, and because of the positive feedback
from both students and professors, 175 colleges and
universities are registered to use them for the spring 2006
Elon University finance professor, Wonhi Synn, will be the
first professor in North Carolina to provide free textbooks
to his students next semester.
"The reason I'm trying this out for my section is
because the textbook I'm using is good quality," he
said. "I would not adopt something that is sub-quality
just because it's free."
Students in Synn's Fundamentals of Financial Managing
class will download their e-books using Adobe Acrobat format
from Freeload Press' Internet Portal, freeloadpress.com.
If they would rather have a hardcopy, the company also offers
paperback e-books with advertising, which are sold for 60
percent less than the original cost of the textbook.
"We debated about using a browser base, but students
want a sense of ownership," Doran said. "They want
the information right on the laptop or desktop so they can
have at it any time they want without worrying about being
Synn said he's going to take advantage of the different
textbook types Freeload Press offers. "I'm going to
give my students options so they can read chapters on the
computer screen, they can download it, and for students that
cannot do that, and they want a printed copy, they can buy
that online," he said.
Freeload Press is selling the printed copy of the finance
book for $25 with a $4 shipping and handling fee, according
to Synn. He said that's comparable to the regular price
of $150 for finance books.
Freeload Press is currently using 10 corporate sponsors.
When businesses sponsor Freeload Press, they are able to put
advertisements in the front of the printed book and in
chapter openings of e-textbooks.
Doran said that the more sponsorship the company gets
increases the number of books they can publish. "If we
can save at least one textbook per year per student,
that's the first step," he said. "When we see
that students want more books, we want to provide more books,
and more sponsorship means more titles."
Synn said he's looked through the e-books, and
doesn't think the ads are intrusive. "Students can
easily bypass the ads while reading a chapter," he
So what's the possibility of every student getting all
of their textbooks for free in the next couple years? Doran
said it may be a longer project than we may hope. But he also
said that these first steps made by Freeload Press are meant
to cause a reaction and make an example for other companies
"That's our goal," Doran said. "We're
trying to show other publishers that we work, we can get
sponsors and we can get academics to use the commercial
Synn said that he's also willing to spread the news if
he and his students like the material.
"If it works, if my students like it and it's
doable and effective, then I'm going to encourage it to
other professors," he said.
Freeload Press is the first media and publishing company to
adopt the idea of using commercial sponsoring to reduce the
price of textbooks. Doran said it was a collaborative effort
to pull it all together. The founders are a group of authors,
academics, advertisers, publishers and supporting vendors,
all with backgrounds in academic publishing.
Doran has worked in the publishing industry for 24 years.
The founders have seen increases in tuition and other college
expenses, and they have the mission to make college course
work more affordable.
"It's clear that next to the lecture, the textbook
is probably the most important tool for the student to use in
order to learn, and not all students are buying their school
materials because they simply don't have money for
it," Doran said. "We want to limit the financial
concerns of going to college."
Contact Jessica Frizen at firstname.lastname@example.org or
Hite / Photographer
Textbooks line the back of the campus shop in row upon row
of shelves. Used books can be bought at a lower price than
new ones, but no book here is free.