Inkling is Reshaping the Higher Ed Textbook Market


Matt MacInnis (USA Today)

Inkling is a driving force behind the shift from print to digital learning in higher education.  First generation online content was converted print—flat and sequential—and often worse than reading a textbook.
I had Lunch with Inkling CEO Matt MacInnis yesterday.  He’s a smart unassuming guy that cut his teeth at Apple and helped build their education business in Asia.  He’s more modest than his website which explains, “We aren’t just reinventing publishing, or reinventing the book. We’re reinventing the way people learn.”
Inkling starts with best selling textbook content and builds on the editorial value of the curation, organization, and narration.  There are no page numbers in an Inkling textbook, but there are terrific 3D graphics, videos, and web links.  You get the benefit of curation without the limitations of a print textbook.
Adaptive digital libraries may replace the concept of textbooks in some subjects (e.g. Knewton in math) making electronic textbooks a transitory technology, but Inkling aimed at the heart of the market and they’re making progress helped higher ed imagine a much richer learning experience.
After a couple years of shipping giant files to offshore development shops, Inkling developed a global publishing model that allows changes to be made dynamically by teams on opposite sides of the globe.
By its second birthday Inkling redeveloped and introduced 50 of the leading textbooks.  Inkling is currently optimized for iPad but they’ll have an Android version this fall.  Students will save about 20% over print, but look for savings to grow as cost pressures mount and free and cheap alternatives expand.
With a little GoingOn functionality, Inkling has added social learning features to solitary business of slogging through a textbook.  Students can share their notes and benefit from some peer-to-peer learning.
Inkling was launched with the support of super angles including Mitch Kapor and Miriam Rivera (former Google GC) followed by support from Sequoia, Pearson and McGraw-Hill.
Inkling is dragging the traditional college classroom into the digital age.  Consider this a parallel change force to other vectors reshaping higher ed:  1) online courses, 2) adaptive content particularly developmental programs, and 3) competency-based learning (e.g., WGU), and 4) informal peer-to-peer learning and emerging certification programs (e.g.,   Together, there is tremendous cost and quality pressure on higher education.
Inkling is a company to watch.
For more see:

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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