Last month, the digital textbook startup Inkling announced that it had secured a new round of funding, including investment from the two biggest educational content companies in the world, McGraw-Hill and Pearson. I spoke with CEO and founder Matt MacInnis about Inkling's iPad app and the company's plan to re-imagine the textbook.
Textbooks on Inkling's platform aren't simply the print versions converted to the tablet screen. Content isn't bound by pages or sections or chapters in the same linear fashion. Rather, it's hierarchical, richly illustrated and augmented. It's interactive. It's social. It's not really a "book," per se, but something that, due to the iPad's format, feels new and different.
During our interview, MacInnis said something that struck me as particularly interesting. I asked him about his team, because, unlike many other companies that are working to digitize textbooks, Inkling isn't a spinoff from a major publisher. He described his team as engineers, not publishers. Digitizing textbooks is an "engineering problem," he said, not a publishing problem.
Employing engineers and not publishers has helped Inkling rethink what a digital textbook on the tablet could look like -- unfettered by the constraints of printed textbooks or by the constraints of hundreds of years of the history of what a book "looks like."