Kara Swisher

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In Major Expansion, Kno Adds K-12 to Digital Education Platform (Video)

In a big leap into a new but adjacent market, Silicon Valley digital education start-up Kno said it is entering the K-12 space, expanding from its college-only focus.

Its first step will be a partnership with major textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which provides nearly half of such content aimed at children from kindergarten through high school.

Enhanced digital versions of those textbooks cost $9.99 or less — Kno gets a piece of each sale — and can be used via an Apple iPad app and also on the Web. Kno said its platform will also be available soon on Google Android and Microsoft Windows 7.

I did a video interview today with Kno co-founder and CEO Osman Rashid at the global HQ of All Things Digital about the effort, which is a big jump for the company that started off trying to make its own tablet device.

Armed with a pile of venture funding, it has pivoted drastically — Apple and then Google completely blew its stillborn hardware efforts up — into creating an educational software platform.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company has raised about $70 million from a range of prominent backers such as Andreessen Horowitz and First Round Capital, along with investors Mike Maples and Ron Conway.

It’ll need more deals to make up that tall valuation, of course. Kno said hopes to strike similar deals with the two other big textbook publishers, McGraw-Hill and Pearson, so it can offer most of the books used by schoolchildren.

It’s definitely an interesting time for electronic books in general and the education market in particular, as many efforts are being made to provide all kinds of educational tools online.

The e-book arena here is increasingly competitive, with big companies such as Amazon and even Apple interested in the important space.

Here’s my chat with Rashid about it all, as well as some screenshots of the new offering:

And here’s the official press release:



Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Kno Partner to Introduce Enhanced K-12 Content at Introductory Rental Prices From $9.99 or Less

Santa Clara, CA — August 7, 2012 — Kno, a pioneer in education software, today announced that the company is entering the K-12 education market through a new partnership agreement with global education leader Houghton Mifflin Harcourt [HMH]. Previously only available to college students, Kno will offer interactive K-12 textbooks for the iPad, the Web, Android and Windows 7.

The agreement marks a turning point for elementary and secondary education by giving children and parents the resources and power to supplement classroom learning through enhanced digital content at home. Just in time for the back-to-school season, parents can now rent digital textbooks for their children, including subjects aligned with Common Core standards, for a one-year rental rate of $9.99 or less per book.

“Even if the schools have not adopted digital textbooks, we wanted to give parents the option to have their kids’ same textbooks available at home,” said Osman Rashid, CEO and Co-Founder of Kno, Inc. “With digital books priced at $9.99 or below, parents can now finally stop their kids from carrying their heavy backpacks to and from school for less than $60 for the school year by supplementing classroom materials with interactive textbooks that can be used at home and on the go.”

The Kno digital textbook app is available today for the iPad and Web and will be available for Android tablets and Windows 7 in time for back to school. With Kno’s app, parents can enhance their children’s learning experience with more than 70 interactive features that bring academic content to life, making learning more engaging and fun. All of the app’s features are engineered to help students retain information more easily and ultimately help improve their grades and comprehension of material.

“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,” said Tim Cannon, Executive Vice President of Strategy and Alliances for HMH. “HMH aims to make quality content available to the widest possible audience with the mission of changing people’s lives by fostering passionate, curious learners. This partnership with Kno supports that goal.”

The interactive features that allow students to engage with the content better and study more efficiently include:

* A digital Journal that automatically saves a student’s notes and highlights them in a study notebook.

* Automatic Flash Cards of key terms in a book to help students study more efficiently and better retain information.

* 3D models that bring difficult chemistry concepts to life to make them easier to understand.

* Quiz Me feature, which automatically turns any diagram in a book into a multiple choice quiz for easy self-quizzing before tests.

* SmartLinks that deliver instructional videos, images, and photos to formulas and concepts in a textbook in real-time for easy reference.

* Coming soon, an analytics feature that will enable active engagement between parents and students to better measure reading progress.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik