‘Open’ Textbooks Provider Flat World Inks Berteslmann Investment

Germany’s Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments is leading a $15 million investment in to New York-based Flat World Knowledge, which gives away college textbooks for free online but charges for printed versions (announcement).

The company has an “open textbook” model that echoes the predominant split in news publishing — entire books online for free, but revenue generation through pay-for print books, e-books for iPad and Kindle, audio books, PDF downloads and interactive study aids. The company says over 1,600 professors and over 900 colleges have used its texts, although it doesn’t provide a revenue figure.

It says the funding is for “the rapid expansion of (its) catalog beyond business and economics to include books for the 125 highest-enrolled courses on college campuses.”

This is a second round. The company had previously raised $10.5 million from investors including Greenhill SAVP, High Peaks Venture Partners and Valhalla Partners.

It’s the kind of target investment normally associated with education powerhouses like Pearson (NYSE: PSO), which is pushing heavily in to online learning.