Inkling Snags Investments from McGraw-Hill and Pearson to Scale Up iPad Textbook Operation

3/23/11Follow @wroush

McGraw-Hill and Pearson, the world’s two largest educational publishers, have both pitched in for a Series B financing round at Inkling, the San Francisco company founded by a former Apple manager to build interactive textbooks for the iPad.

As with Inkling’s Series A round last August, the amount of the investment wasn’t disclosed, but in an announcement today the company called it a “multi-million dollar financing.” Existing investors Sequoia Capital, Felicis Ventures, Kapor Capital, and Sherpalo Capital also participated in the round.

At the same time as it’s been fundraising from strategic partners, Inkling has also been making major strides in its negotiations for publishing rights. When Xconomy profiled Inkling in December, the company had published only six interactive textbooks, four of them from McGraw-Hill. Now the company says it has commitments from McGraw-Hill to develop iPad versions of the top 100 undergraduate titles from its higher education division. It’s also developing iPad versions of 24 business titles for MBA courses from Pearson Education, as well as medical textbooks from Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, undergraduate arts and science textbooks from Pearson Education, and medical education and reference books from McGraw-Hill Professional.

A page from the Inkling title 'Music: An Apprecation" by Roger Kamien

The investments and the new commitments signify “a major endorsement from the publishing industry for the Inkling platform,” the company asserted in a press statement today. Founder and CEO Matt MacInnis, formerly a senior manager in international education at Apple, said Inkling is gaining more traction than past digital publishing efforts in education because “We build every textbook from the ground up for the iPad to create a more engaging learning experience.” Illustrations in Inkling books, for example, are often reworked as quizzes, with proper labels appearing only after students guess at the identity of each item.

“The reason we don’t have 10,000 textbooks overnight is that we don’t just plug in to the database of the publisher and suck down PDFs or XML of their existing content and put it on a screen,” MacInnis told Xconomy contributor Elise Craig for the December profile. “The iPad is not a book, and any attempt to shoehorn book content into the iPad in our mind is shortsighted folly.”

As with other types of content available for the iPad, such as music, Inkling textbooks can be purchased in chunks, a chapter at a time. Social features also allow students to access notes on the texts created by their professors or fellow students.

“Creating an interactive, higher-value e-book experience for students is central to our strategy at McGraw-Hill,” said executive Vineet Madan, vice president of McGraw-Hill Learning Ecosystems, in a statement. “We are excited to deepen our relationship with Inkling as we seek to broaden the educational tools and content available on the iPad and other mobile devices.”

Wade Roush is Chief Correspondent and Editor At Large at Xconomy. You can subscribe to his Google Group or e-mail him at wroush@xconomy.com. Follow @wroush

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