Inkling Reinvents Textbooks for the iPad

12/14/10Follow @xconomy

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assessment and 3D objects,” MacInnis says. And all of it had to be embedded coherently into a clean user interface.

“All of the pieces that go into inventing a whole new way to publish content are areas where we’ve developed expertise we don’t believe anybody else has,” he says.

Inkling expects to have dozens of titles available in the spring of 2011 and hundreds available for students to download on their iPads in the fall.

But the company, which has about 40 employees and has raised funding from Sequoia Capital and prominent individual investors including Ram Shriram, Mitch Kapor, Peter Currie and Aydin Senkut, isn’t looking to create a new version of every text out there. While there may be tens of thousands of textbooks in print, MacInnis says, only a handful sell more than 300,000 copies annually. “It’s about taking some of the highest value content that’s on the market today and turning it into even better content for a device like the iPad,” he says.

Inkling textbook page with professor's notesInkling’s texts aren’t just more interactive than printed books–they’re also cheaper. A digital version of McGraw Hill’s Biology, by Raven, et al.—a tome that would run $189 at the bookstore—only costs $139. Best of all, students can buy individual chapters for $2.99, a huge advantage in any course where professors only teach some of the text.

“What’s most interesting about the economic dynamics in this market is that we’re going to see increasing modularization and the decoupling of all of these different monolithic titles into pieces where students pay as they need it, pay as they go, and only buy what they need,” MacInnis says.

For some cash-strapped students, the price of an iPad may be out of reach—they start at $500—but MacInnis expects the cost to drop as competitors introduce their own tablets. And so far, enough people have purchased the device to give Inkling “a healthy business.”

Thousands of students are logged in and using the platform every day and schools including the University of Alabama, Seton Hall, and Abilene Christian University have all started pilot programs using Inkling. Hundreds of schools have launched pilot programs to integrate the iPad into their curricula, or have plans to do so.

So far, MacInnis is pleased with the response.

“The feedback from everyone who touches it is that they have finally seen a glimpse of the future and what is possible on the iPad,” he says.

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