“We are not trying to redefine the textbook,” Kno CEO Osman Rashid tells me, “we are trying to redefine how you learn.” Today, Kno is taking a big steps towards making digital textbooks more social by making 100,000 college textbooks available both on its Website and on Facebook. The Textbooks for Facebook app and site will present the books via an HTML5 reader. So students who buy a book via Kno’s iPad app, can now read them online or on Facebook. They can post study questions and comments to their news feeds, with an eye towards creating full-fledged study groups down the line.
Kno is also adding new study features into its iPad app. In the video above, VP of marketing Ousama Haffar demos QuizMe and Journal. QuizMe creates a test out of any labeled diagram in a digital textbook. It blacks out the labels and lets you test yourself with multiple choice answers, which works well with biology or anatomy diagrams. The Journal is a digital notebook in the form of an activity stream.
Kno’s iPad app already lets students take notes or highlight passages. Now it collects all of those notes in the Journal, which organizes all the notes for each textbook into an Evernote-like stream of notes. The notes can include highlights, text notes, textbook images, audio notes, and even photos taken with the iPad. “You will use the journal to prepare for an exam, not the book,” predicts Rashid. And while the Journal will be a collection of private notes at launch, Rashid suggests that eventually students will be able to share their Journals with friends.
It is not too hard to imagine how the stream of notes in the Journal could become the basis for a study group stream in the Facebook app at some point down the line. The complicated part will be navigating all the different DRM requirements from all the various textbook publishers, but Rashid believes that the industry will come to a consensus around how much of a textbook can be freely shared. (AFter all, it’s free marketing).
It was only last April when Kno finally gave up on its own tablet and embraced the iPad instead. The app has been well-received, with an average of four stars in iTunes across 205 ratings and only 3 percent of Kno’s digital textbooks have been returned (the service honors a 15-day return policy for purchased books). Speaking with Rashid, he seems almost liberated. Focussing on software only certainly appears to be accelerating the pace of new feature introductions.