Mobile

Kno launches iPad textbook app, no threat to used books yet

We’re still waiting for the student tablet company Kno to deliver on its innovative dual-screen tablet design, but for now iPad owners will be able to get a taste of Kno’s textbook marketplace with its newly launched iPad app.

The free app, which is still in beta testing stage, gives users access to over 70,000 titles at 30 to 50 percent off their list price. But it will likely be a while before Kno can compete with even cheaper used textbooks, which remain the best way for college students to save money on books.

The Kno app lets students organize books and PDF files by course and term, as well as annotate them with highlights and sticky notes. There are also rudimentary social features built-in, letting students post comments, ask questions and alert study buddies to their location.

In my brief testing, the Kno app appears to be a rushed affair. The user interface is nice, but the app is still very slow and unpolished. It’s certainly not a fluid enough experience to tempt students away from paper books. The company likely rushed to get the app out so students would know it’s an option for their next semester — and to give them time to convince their parents to buy them iPads. Kno would have been better served spending another month smoothing out the app’s rough edges.

The release of the app comes on the heels of a recent injection of $30 million in Kno from Intel Capital and others. With that funding came the news that Kno would begin to focus more on making its software available on the iPad and Android tablets. There’s still no word on availability for the company’s iconic tablets (although it will be getting some help from Intel on those).

Santa Clara, Calif., based Kno has raised a total of $86 million. Previous investors include Andreessen Horowitz, First Round Capital, Mike Maples and Ron Conway.


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