Posts Tagged ‘ kno ’

eBook Review – Kno – Adds More Features

As the 2012 back-to-school season picks up speed, so do the updates to eBooks and eBook platforms. Tech providers know that now is the time when students decide if they will make the leap to eBooks, and if so, which device and platform they will choose. That said, Kno recently released a set of updates to its eBook platform. To keep everyone up to speed, here are links to my previous coverage of Kno’s development:

Kno – eBook Review
Kno – eBook Review Follow Up

And now for the new updates:

Collaboration Tools: Now, through the use of social media, students and teachers can share highlights, notes, and more within the content of their books. The system is designed so that teachers can create within the document and then share it with students outside of the classroom. Additionally, students can share with whomever they choose, whether it be a classmate or anyone else using the same eTextbook.

Expanded Platform: The Kno Android app, which is available for free download, will now be preloaded on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 device. In addition, Kno announced that the app will also be available for previously excluded Windows 7 mobile devices.

Advanced Search: Search now includes all notes, textbooks, and PFDs, thus powerfully including and indexing must-find information and making it easily available.

Back to School 2012

All the excitement of back-to-school is building. This is the season, make-or-break time for many in the textbook space. As we all finish up the changes to our sites and we tweak our plans accordingly, many in the industry are thinking “What will the big announcements be?” Hey, they call me the Textbook Guru for a reason, so here is what I foresee:

eBooks: We will see lots of announcements over the next two weeks about updates to digital platforms. Almost every eBook provider I have spoken with is planning new-feature releases prior to back to school. And they are already starting.


Kno Elsevier


Acquisitions: Rumor has it that there will be an acquisition in the textbook space. While I have had this confirmed from a few reliable sources, they have all asked to remain off the record so I can’t say what is being bought and sold.

Rafter Buys Hubedu

Rentals: I expect textbook rentals to continue to be a story in this back-to-school rush. At this point, rental has been around long enough for almost every major player in the space to have a rental program, which makes it a lot different than a few years ago when we only had a handful of players dividing up the rentals pie.

And More . . . The press loves to follow stories. With Chegg making a major push into the college hub and Rafter making waves with their new model, we are sure to see new story lines pop and the press chase as we get into rush.

Is it really news that students spending on textbooks have droped by $12 over 2 years!  Really?

When is rush you ask? Well, if you did already know, here is a chart that I feel represents how the month of August will play out in terms of textbook sales.


Good luck and may your rush business be as hot as the weather this summer!

eBook Review: Kno – Follow Up

We last checked in on Kno in October and if you haven’t already read the initial review, I recommend a quick return as the first review covers the general process of buying your book and accessing basic features of the Kno platform. But now it’s nine months later and as with anything in the technology world, things don’t wait for a calendar year to change before they do. So I checked back in on Kno I and found some pretty cool new features.

Pen: This new tool allows you to write your notes anywhere within the digital textbook or any PDF you add to your library. You no longer need to open a new note and type in your comments. You can circle, star, or even doodle in your eBook now. This feature is only available for Kno on iPad.


Dropbox: Easily import PDFs or other course materials directly into your course manager in the Kno library. Once imported, any digital document or PDF can take full advantage of the Kno platform. This feature is only available for Kno on iPad.


Android and Web Integration: Kno now allows you to access your course manager on iPad, Android (coming soon), and the Web. While the multiple devices are not in synch with one another, this does expand the learning environment if you head home for a weekend and forget your iPad and it surely bodes for further synching in the future.

As we get closer to back-to-school rush, I expect to see more updates from Kno and other eBook technology providers. You can always read about other eBook review, here. Stay tuned and I will keep you updated. In the meantime, stay cool.

eBooks Platform Reviews: The Wrap-Up Show!

As we get deeper into summer, I wanted to spend a moment and recap the eBooks platform reviews we’ve covered over the past six months. This project stems from a discussion I was having about eBooks and the different reader technology on the market. While speaking about each provider, I realized that I had never purchased a book, downloaded it, and tried it, I’d only read hardware specs and handled some devices, but I’d never really knuckled down with a text from start to finish. How could I speak about the different products being used if I hadn’t tried them myself?

First, I tried to think of who the major players were specific to the college textbook space. Then for each book, I wanted to experience it as a student. That said, I never asked for a free copy and instead I went to the company’s website or app, selected a book, and downloaded. While exploring each book, I tried to pay particular attention to the features that were touted by the provider so that I could comment on them (good or bad). By trying to place my mind inside the mind of a student, I was able to look at each book and its overall application in the college setting.

The eBook platforms I covered include:
iBooks Publishing

I was never looking to pick a winner and that remains the case in my approach. Each platform has unique positive and negative features. The one thing that really surprised me was the primitive social features integrated into the eBooks and the lack of thinking “off the page.” The truth is that eBooks have a long way to go. What we have today begins to engage the student in a new way but all the platforms are simply an extension of the physical book. While features such as video, 3D, note cards, highlighting, and more are currently standard features, the book is still stuck in its “chapter” format (that is, it’s a digital version of a print book with a few interactive features that don’t rely on pen-and-paper but mimic them). Until the textbook is truly unbound and digital courses are created from scratch, we will be limited by the small-scale book-mimicry advancements we can make in eBooks.

eBook Review: CourseSmart

Welcome to the next installment of the Textbook Guru’s eBook review series. Today I am taking a look at the CourseSmart eTextbook platform, but I’ve already reviewed Kno and Inkling, which you can read first if you haven’t already. My first two reviews were done using iPad apps, but CourseSmart is a little different, as you’ll see, so I am predominantly using it through my web browser.

As before, lets begin by talking about the purchasing experience, since each platform so far has had a different policy. With Kno and Inkling, each book (or chapter on Inkling) is fully purchased and yours forever (if you chose). With CourseSmart, all of their eBooks are rentals, and are disabled from your account at the end of the rental period. Renting print and eTextbooks was a hot topic at the start of this academic year as a way to save money, but some students found that because of their school schedule, they’d either have to rent the book for only part of their term, or extend into the next. With CourseSmart, nearly all of their rentals are for a 12 month period, ensuring that you’ll have plenty of time to use it.

Unlike Inkling, but similar to Kno, CourseSmart has a 14 day return policy on all their books granted you haven’t viewed or used more than 20% of the book. Of course all your books, or chapters of books, need to be ‘checked in’ before you can return it, which leads me to my next point. You can ‘check out’ sections of books, or entire books (up to 5 titles) which allows you to download them to your computer for offline reading. In my opinion this is one of the strongest features CourseSmart has to offer, since even today in the 21st century a reliable Internet connection is not always available.


Lets dive right into using the eBook. For starters, CourseSmart offers many of the tools I’ve come to expect from an eBook. For instance you can write notes that become anchored to the page they are written on. These notes are then accessible through the menu sidebar and are sorted by page number. This is pretty standard but what I found interesting is that you can also see all your notes inany book directly from you bookshelf. This would prove very handy if you take heavy notes to study from later.

Highlighting is also a standard feature, although CourseSmart only allows one color, yellow. Anything you highlight is also organized in the sidebar like your notes and you can quickly jump between important sections using this menu. Instead of being saved on your clipboard to be pasted later, when you copy text, CourseSmart pulls it out in a pop up window and converts it to plain text. As someone who prefers bulleted lists for studying instead of long passages, this would be helpful for sifting out only the important text and having it in a workable, editable format right in the eBook.

One feature I was disappointed in was the zoom tool. The other platforms I’ve seen have allowed me to zoom in and out freely on any part of the page, which was very helpful in the science texts which often have large diagrams or charts. However, when using CourseSmart on the web, the zoom tool simply toggles between normal view and a slight zoom, probably around 50% larger.

A weak zoom tool is certainly not a deal breaker, but it is more than made up for by two features CourseSmart boasts that I haven’t seen anywhere else, ‘share’ and ‘print.’ Clicking share will give you a URL to copy so you can “share this link with your instructor or classmates.” When your classmate opens the link, they are able to view the page you shared as if they were logged into your CourseSmart account. The best thing about this feature? It saves your highlights and notes from that page. This is the kind of interactive study tool I’ve been hoping to see in an eBook. Which leads me to the next great study feature.

CourseSmart allows you to print up to a 10 page passage directly from your web browser. Selecting print allows you to select a start page (defaults to the page you are currently viewing) and up to 10 pages after. Just like sharing a page through a link, this feature also preserves highlights, however notes are not printed along side it.


As I stated above, one of the most impressive features on CourseSmart is the ability to read offline. You can read any part of any book you’ve rented offline, as long as you don’t exceed 5 titles checked out at a time. Attempting to check out a 6th title will prompt you to check in one of your other books. To access your books while offline, you need to first be online. From your bookshelf you can select ‘read now’ or ‘read offline’ which will allow you to check off which chapters you want to download.

Being a big fan of Google’s web browser Chrome, I was disappointed that offline reading is only supported on Firefox version 3.6 and higher. I’ve run into this problem with other services, so I always keep Firefox on my desktop, but with so many browsers our there it seems strange to only support one. However, after you download the chapter(s), you need to bookmark the offline section by visiting Then, to access your books offline you simply open your browser, click your bookmark for offline bookshelf and all your downloaded titles are waiting for you.

Now I must admit that complaining about the offline bookshelf’s limited availability seems silly when you consider the fact that your entire online bookshelf is available through ANY web browser with an Internet connection. So for offline I’m stuck with Firefox, but for online I can read from Chrome, Safari, IE, and most importantly any mobile web browser. There are mobile apps for Android and iOS devices, but being able to read from any device that can get to the CourseSmart website seems like a pretty handy feature.

Next, it’s important to note the inclusion of ‘eResources’ with certain titles. At first glance I assumed this would be similar to that DVD in the back of your textbook that you had to pay an extra $30 for but never end up using. However, while the eResource component of CourseSmart texts delivers valuable extra features, but they are features that are already embedded in the text on other platforms. Features like online homework, quizzes and exercises, simulations and videos or links to outside websites with related content.

To me, this is sort of missing the point of an eBook. These features are separated into a companion DVD for most print textbooks because there’s no way to include that content within the book. But eBooks have no limits to the kind of content they can display which is what makes them so exciting. Being able to tap on a diagram and hear a professor explain photosynthesis, or spinning a chlorophyll molecule around in a 3D image, or opening full screen videos that literally show you how evolution works is what separates eBooks from print books. Separating these features into a seperate eResource section seems like a step backwards to me.


Overall I enjoyed using CourseSmart. They have most of the standard features you’d expect from an eBook and it was simple to use and navigate within a book. I was disappointed in the lack of multimedia features within the text, but the study features like printing and sharing are very useful and not available elsewhere. However the best part of the CourseSmart platform is the ability to read on or offline, and the variety of devices you can access your books from. Being restricted to the iPad on other platforms is like print books in that you only have the one copy, but CourseSmart is like having a copy anywhere you have an Internet connection.

Since I’ve never had to reference any of my school books after I was finished with the course, the idea of having them on a rental basis makes a lot of sense. The 12 month rental period is handy since you don’t have to worry about how your schedule matches up to the rental periods, and if it results in lower prices to purchasing the eBook outright then I’m all in. I think CourseSmart is doing a lot of things right, and they have a very solid eTextbook platform that covers all the bases, however I look forward to watching them innovate in the years to come as certain features become industry standards.

A $10-Million Textbook Giveaway: Kno Wants You to Get to Know eBooks

Well, the guys at want to make sure that you have no excuses when it comes to trying an eBook and they’re willing to give you a freebie in hopes that you’ll buy more. They’re so convinced that you’ll love and buy eBooks that they are quite literally banking on it by giving away $10-million worth of eBooks. Now I can’t be sure how they calculated that value — Is it is based on the list price, a sale price, something else they’ve factored in? — but any way you cut it, that is a lot of books and bucks (For more about Kno eBook capabilities, check out my review of the Kno platform.)

While an exciting promotion, Kno is not the first to try it. Last year we covered how Neebo was giving away 100,000 textbook rentals, a number the company valued at close to $6 million in costs, but that campaign was not very successful and the results of the giveaway indicate that only about 10,000 books were in demand and given away. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty sure the marketing guys working for Kno will successfully execute this campaign. They’ve proven successful in similar social-media campaigns such as the one they (under a different company moniker) did for Chegg, which resulted in more than 30,000 students posting and tweeting codes for discount textbook rentals.

The Kno campaign is purely viral, which means it is dependent on one person telling another and that person telling many more and the message spreading that way. It’s low cost to them and there’s incentive for you: the more people you tell, the better your chances are for getting a book and the quicker you get your book delivered to you. They’re counting on you to want the product and be willing to work for it, knowing that the work simply means spreading the word. It’s got some game-like elements similar to the Orbitz Fill the Plane campaign.

Full program details are still murky and not yet defined anywhere on the Web. All the official site states is that:

  • Kno is giving away up to $10 million worth of free eTextbooks during December 2011 – January 2012.
  • The Program favors users who share with Facebook friends and it is first come, first served.
  • Must be a U.S college student or professor with a valid .edu email address in order to participate.
  • One free textbook limit per user, subject to textbook availability.
  • No credit card or purchase necessary.
  • Kno reserves the rights to discontinue the program at any time.

That begs a few questions.
1) What does “up to $10 million” mean?
2) What books are available in the program?
3) How much have the marketing folks got sewn up already and how much are they still cobbling together?
4) What would it take for this endeavor to be considered successful?

Only time will tell the answers. For now, the entry is easy, just give them your email address. I am not a student and don’t have a .EDU address. If you do, sign up and let me know how it goes. I would love to hear some feedback about getting a book and your experience with Kno, the campaign, and any other aspects of the textbook business.

20MM and Kno Launch Open Source eTextbook

Electronic textbooks and open source content have been hot topics in education recently as students, teachers and administrators get excited over these game changing technologies. Now, thanks to 20 Million Minds and Kno, we are seeing the two meet in a commercially viable model for the first time. The two companies have joined forces to launch the nation’s first web 2.0, open source eTextbook  for college students.

20MM plans to produce open source etextbooks for the top 25 courses taken by undergraduates in the nation, with general statistics being one of the largest of these courses. Looking just at California community colleges, over 120,000 students take general statistics every year, and with an average new book price of over $150, these students collectively spend over $10 million per year on books for this single course.

Now they can turn to Kno, where they can get a free PDF of Collaborative Statistics, 2nd Eddition, written by Barbara Illowsky and Susan Dean, faculty members at De Anza College in Cupertino, California. Kno also offers an enhanced version of the text, which allows you to use all the features Kno offers on it’s other titles, for $20 for the semester. “The reason that I am involved in this project is taht I believe this enhanced version goes well beyond that of a flat PDF to increase student learning. WE already have a free textbook. Now I want to improve the learning experience by offering students what I consider a Web 2.0 experience,” said Illowsky.

This kind of partnership between for-profit companies like Kno and non-profits like 20MM may be just what we’ve been waiting for to take open source textbooks to the next level. “This new offerin is designed for college students to improve their learning experience, results and significantly lower the textbook cost,” said Dean Florez, President of 20MM Foundation. “This digitally enhanced etextbook provides a vision of what is now possible for a new generation of open content and authors.”

With such a promising partnership, and 24 more open source etextbooks planned, it’s an exciting time for cash-strapped undergrads everywhere. Florez predicts “massive adoption by faculty by spring 2012,” a lofty goal but whether it catches on this spring or next, there’s no doubt this is a threat for many publishers and a game changer for college students.

The Move To Digital: Breakdown of the Big Three in Digital Learning Platforms

Move to Digital
As with any new technology, it can be tough to navigate the territory. As a starter, I’ve rounded up three of the top digital learning platforms getting the most attention today: Xplana, Inkling and Kno.

1. Xplana

Xplana is a great source for those who have access to the Internet. Xplana offers free e-textbooks for a wide range of courses online. Xplana is purely online, and it offers more than textbooks. Xplana plans to turn its platform into a social network of sorts, allowing students to help one another while utilizing the resources on the site. Xplana has released an app for Android, as well as an app for the iPhone, that will allow students to access their materials on the go, as well.

What others are saying:

“Just as new devices have helped spawn the growth in e-books, Xplana also points to some significant developments around open educational resources (OER) and open textbooks. States and institutions have embarked on a number of OER initiatives to help address the affordability and availability of textbooks, including Washington State’s Open Course Library project, a program that aims to make core college materials available on the Web for less than $30 per class.” Read Write Web

“Launched in 2010, currently has more than 400,000 educational assets – e-books, open educational resources, and curated content – available to its community of users in a wide range of subjects from agriculture and animals to English and languages, science and computer science and non-academic areas.” Taxo Diary

Pros: Since Xplana is online, it’s easy to access, and doesn’t involve carrying anything extra around.  The fact that it’s free is perfect for starving students who don’t need any extra monthly fees or the like. The apps for both Androids and iPhones make it so that students can access what they need at any time, since most people usually carry smartphones these days. Continue reading

CAMEX RECAP – Rental, Digital, and Bankruptcy!

Last week was the annual Campus Market Expo. The 2011 event was held in Houston, Texas, and while this show is for anything and everything college bookstores, the textbook industry favors the expo as a launching pad for new programs, training, and announcements, as well as a chance to set the stage for the August back-to-school season. So what’s the scoop on CAMEX 2011?  What was the buzz? What were the trends? And what were the expectations? Keep reading to find out.
Like general e-commerce, textbook rental was again center stage. In addition to the traditional CAMEX vendors, several online rental companies, including, (through Bookstore Solutions), and Chegg, were present at the show. 

Surrounding the event were several important press releases regarding rental and the rental players:

  • announced its partnership with NACS in order to position the move as uniting online rentals and bricks-and-mortar college stores as the ultimate source for affordable textbooks.
  • BookRenter also had a nice timely release on the company’s stability and immediate intentions as they announced raising a Series-C round of funding in the amount of  $40 million.
  • Chegg announced its partnership with the Independent College Bookstore Association in a new commitment to deliver affordable textbook rentals to campuses nationwide.
  • Follett announced a new online-rental solution for independent bookstores.

Continue reading

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