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Inkling: The future of textbooks?

Could heavy, expensive textbooks soon be a thing of the past? Matt MacInnis, CEO of founder of Inkling, says his company is reinventing the learning experience for students through multimedia titles that can be downloaded to the iPad.

It all began with an inkling.

“I watched students use technology, and textbooks were competing for their attention. It was frustrating because I would see the promise of technology not realized because of the textbook,” says Matt MacInnis.

After spending eight years with Apple in the education group, Matt MacInnis launched Inkling, a start-up company that is reinventing the textbook. See how it works here.

Inkling is bringing textbook titles into a new-age multimedia experience for the iPad and it’s picking up steam. The company announced a second round of funding last week- $17 million from Tenaya Capital, Jafco Ventures, Pearson and Sequoia Capital.

That money will be invested in new technologies and go toward research and development. MacInnis says designing interactive textbooks is not always something you can tell a computer to do. You need a human being curating the content.

“For us, what’s exciting is the world of what we can natively digital content,” says MacInnis. “We have a number of projects underway right now that are really going to be market defining titles. They won’t be bound by the world of print.”

The concept is already popular among publishers and especially colleges. MacInnis says Brown University rearranged its first year medical program around titles Inkling offers. Hult International Business School, on track to be one of the largest business schools by enrollment, also requires Inkling titles for several courses.

The titles can be downloaded through Inkling’s free app. Books range from $1.99 to $9.99 per chapter, which can be downloaded individually. There is always at least one chapter available for free.

Though MacInnis doesn’t think digital textbooks will ever completely replace print textbooks, he does predict the market picking up in 2012, with 20 to 30 percent of students using digital titles over print. He says about 100 titles will be available this coming school year.

Inkling isn’t alone in the market of digital textbooks. However, MacInnis says what sets his company apart from the competition is the interactive experience.

“A lot of people are claiming to do e-textbooks. They’re selling you a PDF. It’s kind of hard to spin a 3D molecule in a PDF,” says MacInnis. “If you’re paying $100 for a book, you better get an awesome experience.”

More about tools you need for school at EducationOption.

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