Calling the pact a step toward the “consumerization of the textbook market,” Kno, an educational software company that creates interactive digital textbooks for the iPad, is moving into the K-12 school market after announcing an agreement with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kno will produce digital K-12 textbooks for the elementary and secondary education market based on HMH textbooks compliant with common core standards. But rather than to be used by schools, the digital texts are aimed at parents and their children and can be rented for a year for $9.99. The e-texts will be available for the iPad and the Web immediately and on the Android and Windows 7 operating systems by the fall.
The agreement marks Kno’s expansion into the elementary and secondary school marketplace after a focus on developing multimedia textbooks for higher education. In an interview at the PW offices, Kno cofounder and CEO Osman Rashid said the textbooks will be offered in all subject areas covered by HMH texts such as science, English, and Spanish. The digital texts are being offered at a rental rate of $9.99 for a year after which they expire and cannot be used. The e-texts can be re-rented for an additional year if required. While Rashid said he did not have the exact figure of how many titles the deal will include, he said HMH K-12 programs offer books for all common core classes in K-12.
Kno textbooks are licensed from HMH and designed to look exactly like their print counterparts—including maintaining the original page structure. But Kno specializes in adding an impressive array of multimedia and interactive functionality. Kno textbooks on science offer 3-D molecular models and interactive quizzes; full search functionality, easy to use highlighting and notes mode, handwriting recognition and a digital journal in each title that collects all of a student’s highlights and notes in a particular book into one easily accessible compilation. The book’s glossary also converts into a flashcard mode that provides an easy way to study terms and teachers can customize the texts by adding video and links to websites. Rashid emphasized that the Kno K-12 digital texts are aimed at consumers; now parents can purchase access to digital versions of the textbooks their kids use in school.
Tim Cannon, executive v-p of strategy and alliances at HMH, said “By offering digital access to enhanced K-12 content on the go and at home, this collaboration will empower parents to get more involved in their children’s education. We know parental involvement is an important factor in student achievement, and we’re proud to be the first content provider to bring Kno’s technology to the K-12 world.”
Rashid said Kno was not going to wait for school systems to begin buying digital texts, instead “while the schools are making plans, parents can go digital with the same content their kids use in school. It’s cheap. No more backpacks and the kids can leave the physical books at school and use digital books at home to work on their assignments.” Rashid called the deal the “consumerization of the textbook market,” and claimed that digital texts are more engaging to students and are designed to be more effective for teachers to use to assess student progress.
“Engaging material is the leading indicator of performance [in students],” according to Rasid, “not grades.” He said Kno content on laptops and mobile devices generates a stream of data (he also said the data was anonymous) that allows teachers to track the level of engagement to the materials. He also said the software will eliminate concerns over the ever-increasing weight of the texts young students are forced to lug around.
“For the price of a couple of Happy Meals,” Rashid said joking, “you can buy a digital textbook and stop your child from having to carry around a six pound book.”