Digital academic platform Flooved has thrown out its original business model of being a “Spotify for academic books”. It is now giving students free access to self-published “textbooks” and notes from lecturers.
The platform had originally signed up 12 publishers, including Bloomsbury and Momentum Press last year, and planned to offer students the ability to view digital books online for a flat fee of £20 a month, or £200 a year.
However, the company, founded by Hamish Brocklebank and his business partner Nicolas Philippe, dispensed with the original plan after realising “one or two of the major publishers were never going to sign up, and we needed them all for it to work".
Brocklebank said he now wants to “disintermediate the academic publishing industry”.
The company has now been reborn as a “crowdsourcing site for maths and physics” which is “riding on the back of the spirit of the Open Access movement,” Brocklebank said. Lecturers in maths and physics—where OA is being most readily taken up—can post their lecture notes, unpublished textbooks and theses onto Flooved, which students can view for free. The company has 8,000 users in over 183 countries, Brocklebank said, with over 800 contributing professors.
Flooved will earn revenue through paid-for services, such as a Q&A section—where students can post questions and academics will answer them within 24 hours—and from recruitment companies looking to employ people experienced in specialist areas.
Brocklebank said: “We pivoted our business model back in December and dropped the publishers as we realised students no longer had to be so dependent on overpriced textbooks . . . Along the lines of the Open Access movement, we source our content directly from the world’s best professors in maths and physics who share our vision that access to educational materials should be free. These consist of either OA textbooks, unpublished textbooks or extremely high-quality lecture notes.”
He added: “We then automatically assign relevant topics and metadata to link together relevant books and then make these available for free on Flooved.com. Our aim is to disintermediate the academic publishing industry, as the value which publishers used to provide—curation, formatting, marketing etc—is no longer applicable in the digital age.”
The material hosted on Flooved will not be peer-reviewed, but Brocklebank said “the content has validity because of who has authored it”. He added that the platform was projected to have over 100,000 users by the end of 2013.