D9 Tech Demo: Inkling

Textbooks: The bane of students from kindergarten through Ph.D. programs. They’re heavy, unwieldy and, especially in college, a major expense.

In the “year of the tablet,” Inkling aims to change that.

The company says putting textbooks on tablets solves a number of traditional problems. The two most obvious are saving money and back pain. Inkling also points out some less obvious benefits, like cutting down on paper use, ease in searching a given text and the ability to apply social networking features to the textbook experience.

9:08 am: The demo has begun. Inkling founder and CEO Matt MacInnis asks the D9 audience who went to college (probably everyone) and immediately mentions how much textbooks cost for students.

9:10 am: MacInnis is showing the Inkling app on an iPad, scrolling through a music text, which features a listening guide, and demonstrating the ability to listen to a selection of classical music and even go to a specific point in a song and check out interesting features of it.

9:11 am: Kara asks how many books Inkling has. It’s got 25 “full-length” texts right now.

9:12 am: Now on to pricing. MacInnis mentions Inkling’s unique sharing model, which doesn’t stiff any one person with the $200 bill usually associated with new textbooks.

9:13 am: Students with the same book can connect over Facebook as well, and look at/study the same material together at the same time.

9:14 am: Another feature: Easier review. MacInnis is showing an unlabeled diagram of the heart linked to a labeled one.

9:15 am: The heart diagram can also link out to a relevant Wikipedia entry, then go right back into the textbook.

9:15 am: “We correlate this stuff to the print world so that students with print and digital copies can correspond.”

9:16 am: Inkling has deals with all of the major textbook publishers, says MacInnis.

9:17 am: Inkling can produce a full-length book in about 12 weeks, according to MacInnis. They are now able to start multiple titles at once, for increased output.

9:17 am: Inkling will need more than 25 titles, says Kara. MacInnis says he could dump a bunch of PDFs into an iPad, but Inkling is concerned with interactivity, building a product from the “ground up.”

9:18 am: Walt asks about the hardware considerations. MacInnis says that Apple has done a fantastic job with the hardware, and that Inkling is “standing on the shoulders of giants” to work on the content. He says that for right now they will remain focused on the iPad as it continues to stand atop the tablet market.


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Identity is incredibly useful because in the online world you need to know who you are dealing with.

— Eric Schmidt on identity at D9