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May 2016
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In the Spirit of Open and Low Cost for Students

Dr. McCrimmonDr. Miles McCrimmon is a 20 year veteran professor at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, VA, teaching English Composition and American Literature. He’s been a productive faculty member despite carrying a heavy teaching load nearly every semester his entire career. His latest project brought him to Flat World Knowledge and resulted in his first published book: The Flat World Knowledge Handbook for Writers.

Flatworld Knowledge Handbook Image

I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. McCrimmon recently about his book and involvement with OER.

Thanks for speaking with me, Dr. McCrimmon.  Can you tell me a little about your background with open textbooks and other open education resources?

Like most practitioners, I kind of fell into it as I became determined to find alternatives to traditional textbooks.  In my case, when my campus moved to a ‘single text adoption per course’ policy, faculty either ‘liked it or lumped it’.  That policy created a bit of a subculture of people who would go out [on the Internet] and find alternatives. We started with wikis that evolved into a homemade CMS — sort of a kitbag of teaching resources which we kept reflecting on and revising.

So why did you choose to use Flat World Knowledge over a traditional academic publisher?

I first encountered Flat World Knowledge as a potential customer looking to adopt a text.  That was my initial conversation. I was intrigued by the model of being able to remix a textbook with my own material. I liked the whole concept so much, that I decided to create my own textbook. Going ahead with the project, I found Flat World to be very streamlined in the publishing process.  Traditional academic publishing is filled with so many compromises in bringing something to market.  Books start with a print format only and then publishers think about other formats after the fact.  There are hurdles and barriers everywhere.  Flat World Knowledge offered me the opportunity to get straight to the point of what I wanted to share with my colleagues in the way I wanted to share it. I am convinced they have the students’ best interests in mind.

Is this your first book?  Did you have any concerns over the Creative Commons copyright that comes with a Flat World textbook?

This was my first experience publishing a book.  I’ve gone through the development stage with a traditional publisher before, but as I started bumping up against the barriers, it all fell apart.  I really didn’t have any concerns over the copyright issue, as owning the content wasn’t my primary reason for writing the book.  That wasn’t the spirit in which I approached this project.

The spirit? What do you mean?

I look at it this way.  [In academia], there is a lot of work that gets done that isn’t remunerative, but we accept that.

It comes with the territory, you mean?

Exactly. This project was not all that proprietary, for me. I wasn’t going to worry about it.  I wanted to share ideas, and this seemed the best vehicle for doing so.

What was the process of working with Flat World Knowledge like in bringing your book to market?

From the initial concept discussion with Flat World Knowledge to the book being available to adopt was about 15 months, which is pretty rapid in publishing terms. There are still some materials in process – an Instructor Manual I’m working on, for instance.  Flat World Knowledge is creating the supplemental materials like test banks and supporting PowerPoint slides for lecture.

Tell me a little about the handbook – what can instructors expect?

It’s meant to be a knowledge handbook; it shouldn’t just be used for reference or error correction. It would be very appropriate for first semester composition students, or even high school dual enrollment students.

The existing books on the market tend to focus on mechanics of writing and make assumptions that there are certain kinds of writing that college students can expect to encounter. I rewind a bit and start by asking some underlying questions. Why are you here? What are you in college? What are you expecting to get out of it?  If I’ve learned one thing as a professor over the years, it’s that if you can’t get at the attitudes and dispositions that students have, if you can’t help them figure out why they’re there, no amount of coverage of mechanics and of genres and of modes of writing is going to be successful.


The Handbook for Writers is free if read online from the Flat World Knowledge website, and ranges between $24.95 – $69.00 depending on the download/print format chosen (self-print, eBook, black & white or color printed and bound). One great alternative students have is a $2.95 print-chapter-on-demand option for those who are choosing the online-only version.  For students needing a single reference chapter in their notebook, this customization is great.  Online interactive study aids are also available for $14.95.  If you are interested in adopting Dr. McCrimmon’s text, and want to find out more, please visit Flat World Knowledge Handbook for Writers where you can follow up with the Talk to an Adoption Expert form or go straight to adopting the text.

On behalf of Collegeopentextbooks.org I’d like to congratulate Dr. McCrimmon on becoming part of the open textbook movement.  I’m sure we will hear much more from him in the future.