Inkling, a 2009 San Francisco startup specializing in creating interactive textbooks specifically for the iPad, has secured “multimillion dollar” minority investments from McGraw-Hill and Pearson with plans to produce versions of their textbooks in the Inkling multimedia platform. The exact amount of funding was not disclosed. Inkling has already secured significant funding from such venture capital firms as Sequoia Capital, Felicis Ventures, Kapor Capital, and Sherpalo Ventures.
The new investment will give Inkling access to redesign McGraw-Hill’s top 100 undergraduate textbook, reference and professional titles; 24 of Pearson’s most popular business, arts and science titles along with medical textbooks form Lippincott Williams & Wilkins and more. Inkling also has agreements to reproduce textbooks from John Wiley & Sons, W. W. Norton and Wolters Kluwer and other major publishers, using its platform for the iPad.
"Until now, digital textbooks have failed to gain real traction because they add little value over the printed book,” said Matt MacInnis, Inkling's founder and CEO. "But Inkling is different. We build every textbook from the ground up for iPad to create a more engaging learning experience. "
Cofounded by MacInnis and v-p, engineering Rob Cromwell, Inkling is the latest effort to bring textbooks into the digital/interactive era, redesigning academic titles for use on laptops and desktops as well as a range of mobile devices, the iPad in particular. Inkling joins a broad effort in textbook publishing alongside such efforts as Macmillan’s Dynamic textbooks, Blio’s multimedia format, the Kno dual-screen hardware/software platform, CourseSmart, B&N’s NookStudy, Flat World Knowledge, Copia and others, focused on completely reinventing how a textbook should look and function.
At the same time the industry is also looking to reduce the ever-rising cost of textbooks for students, a vexing problem for textbook publishers as well as educational administrators. Along with Inkling, all of these efforts offer digital textbooks with such features as online access, customizable content, selling chapters and even smaller content units, easily circulated class and instructor-notes; video and animation content as well as the ability to read and synch on multiple devices and, of course, lower prices.
Gary June, Pearson chief global marketing officer, said, “Inkling gives us a chance to introduce 'from scratch' interactivity into the educational experience. This is a critical part of our efforts to leverage next generation devices in new ways that will improve performance and retention.”
Despite the proliferation of new digital versions of textbooks, students remain reluctant to use them. Inking offers a chance to redesign the conventional textbook from scratch (although other textbook publishers are also doing this) on a platform geared to exploit the features of the iPad, easily one of the most popular new computing devices on the market.
This focus has attracted a lot of media attention as well as new funding for Inkling, which is offering a complete redesign of the textbook specifically intended to exploit the functionality of the iPad. Inkling textbooks are overloaded with video, animated and interactive content, quizzes and multimedia-enabled material and supported with social media functionality that allows students and professors to communicate notes, questions and collaborate quickly and easily.
"Creating an interactive, higher-value e-book experience for students is central to our strategy at McGraw-Hill,” said Vineet Madan, v-p McGraw-Hill Learning Ecosystems. “We are excited to deepen our relationship with Inkling as we seek to broaden the educational tools and content available on iPad and other mobile devices."