Inkling Cuts Textbooks into Inexpensive Bite-Sized Morsels

“There are lots of schoolkids in the world,” writes Tyler Cowen on the Marginal Revolution website.

We were thinking the same thing. In fact, we were thinking it a decade ago when we leaped into the e-book space: the medium is perfect for textbooks. But education had to wait for hardware and software to catch up.

It’s caught up.

Hardware: Apple will lead the way. “The superior Apple graphics, colors, and fonts will support all of the textbook features which Kindle botches and destroys” says Cowen in My predictions about the iPad. “In the longer run the iPad will compete with your university, or in some ways enhance your university. It will offer homework services and instructional videos and courses, none of which can work well on the current iPhone or Kindle.

Platform: We’ve been reading up on a San Francisco startup called Inkling. “Stacked with pedigreed veterans of Microsoft and Google, Harvard, MIT and Stanford,” writes Paul Boutin of VentureBeat, Inkling surfaced after Apple’s iPad launch with $1 million to seed development of software aimed not just at student’s learning needs but their pocketbooks as well. The company is working with a number of textbook publishers like McGraw-Hill and Pearson.”First, they’ll port their existing tomes onto Apple’s iPad as interactive, socialized objects. Then, they’ll create all-new learning modules — interactive, social, and mobile — that leave ink-on-paper textbooks in the dust.

Inkling offers color, interactivity, highlighter capability, social network sharing features, talking text and dynamic quizzes. And all of this delivered lightning-fast. “The iPad’s A4 chip is even faster than the Android G2 that gets geeks so excited,” says Boutin, “so rich layouts and interactive illustrations run quickly.

“But the real breakthrough,” he writes, “is in pricing. Instead of a $180 textbook, learning modules built with Inkling will be priced individually on iTunes, just as music and TV shows are. Instead of buying all 50 chapters of a 1,200-page biology book, an instructor can create a customized bundle of only the modules students will actually use. Pricing hasn’t been determined yet, but it’s likely to be a few dollars per unit — much cheaper than current textbooks.

Are you listening, students? Modular bundles so cheap they’re not worth ripping off!

Here are some details from Inkling’s “About” page:

  • Interactive figures. Inkling lets you directly manipulate objects to explore them. Want to know if two molecules bond? Use your fingertips to pull them together and see what happens.
  • Custom spine. Inkling organizes content based on your assignments. It shows you everything you need to do, all at once, no matter where the content is from. It’s like a custom textbook, just for you.
  • Reader. When it’s time to read a traditional textbook, Inkling does an amazing job. Dog-ear your pages, skip from chapter to chapter with gestures, and jump from figure to figure with your finger.
  • Quizzes. Measure your progress with interactive tests that deepen your understanding of the content.
  • Note following. Ever borrow a classmate’s notes? Borrow them in realtime with Inkling NoteSync™. Annotations, highlights and comments from your friends show up alongside your own, instantly.
  • Device sync. Want to finish up a reading while waiting in line? Anything you’ve got on your iPad appears right on your iPhone or iPod touch, too.

Look for iPads utilizing the Inkling platform on campuses as early as next fall.

Richard Curtis


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