Updated: Will the Kno Tablet finally make e-textbooks mainstream?

Updated: Will the Kno Tablet finally make e-textbooks mainstream?

Summary: The 14.1" Kno tablet will either be the Ed Tech holy grail or just one more failed ebook startup in a world that still likes killing trees.

TOPICS: Tablets, Apple, Hardware, iPad
Update: VentureBeat released new video on YouTube of Kno CEO, Osman Rashid (co-founder of Chegg, a textbook rental site I covered several months ago) demonstrating the single-screen tablet: Interestingly, when I reviewed Chegg in July of last year, I noted that one of the major weaknesses of the service was that you were not allowed to take notes in the margins of books (only highlighting was allowed). One of the major strengths of the Kno that Mr. Rashid highlights is the ability to take notes and annotate the electronic texts. I guess he read my blog. Original post: A 14-inch tablet filled with custom book reading and PDF-centric software is either complete folly inviting breakage and sticker shock or a revolutionary device that will finally bring electronic textbooks into the mainstream for college students. We'll see which one it is when and if Kno's tablet comes to market "before the end of the year." We've heard it before, of course. In fact, most of the readers of this blog have been waiting for electronic textbook revolution that we just know is right around the corner. Forgive me if I'm a bit skeptical. And yet, watching the video from Kno's website of their 14" dual screen convertible tablet not only makes me want to start writing some brilliantly interactive textbooks, but makes me want to go back to college so I can justify getting one of these things. Check out the video below:

Kno Video "New" from David Straus on Vimeo.

Although details about the dual-screen full book reader and the newly-announced single-screen tablet are still emerging, it looks as though the startup company has eschewed Apple's everything-must-be-paper-thin philosophy and created a substantial device that just might stand up to the abuse to which only students could subject electronics. The software also looks compelling, easily replacing the majority of paper, books, pens, notepads, etc., that the average student carries in his/her backpack. It looks as though the Kno might even really make it to market, given content deals with Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Wiley. Kno is planning an App store, as well, to add functionality to the device and make it more competitive with the iPad and the coming storm of Android tablets. Update: The company also raised $46 million in financing led by Mark Andreesen of Netscape fame. Given this sort of high-profile backing, the chances of the Kno making it to market and building the ecosystem for which they're hoping are certainly increasing. Will it work? Will this be the little bit of disruptive kit that finally pushes us past the e-textbook tipping point? I don't know. A few people thought the Kindle DX would do that, too, until they actually tried to use one. However, if it's even half as slick as the marketing video would suggest, Kno is well on its way to ushering in a revolution.

Topics: Tablets, Apple, Hardware, iPad

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • RE: Will the Kno Tablet finally make e-textbooks mainstream?

    Interesting, but will students buy in?
  • RE: Will the Kno Tablet finally make e-textbooks mainstream?

    > ...makes me want to go back to college so I can justify getting one of these things.

    Why confine it to the niche market of education? I'd buy one for general use. The Kindle and its, well, kin, haven't made a compelling case for switching from paper books to something with batteries and a lot of teeny weensy buttons that do who knows what.
  • RE: Will the Kno Tablet finally make e-textbooks mainstream?

    The features shown in the video definitely make me want to take closer look. Two questions immediately come to mind. Is it 504 and 508 compliant? Does it handle DRM (digital rights management) content (specifically playback of audio books in .WMA format)?
  • What I like and what I don't see yet

    I like the stylus (as opposed to using my large, oily fingertips for fine on-screen work). I like the fact that it's compatible with existing textbook reading.

    What about the "keyboard"? How much extra will that be? An onscreen keyboard is just not adequate. If you can't touch-type with a physical keyboard, it's no good.

    What's the communication system? Is it locked into just one or two modes, or does it handle WiFi and cell networks and bluetooth?

    How good is the handwriting recognition software? I find that, much as I love my Palm, Graffiti software can be frustrating as the thing misreads my letters because of skipping parts of my letter-strokes.
    IT kibitzer
  • This is more compelling than an Ipad, Slate or Playbook.

    As a 4 year user of the Asus R1F tablet, this device appears to be closest to what my next device needs to be, either in the one or two-screen flavor. My buying criteria is simple:
    1) A letter or legal size screen ( prefer 8.5x11 letter size )
    2) Instant-on ( or sub 3 seconds to start writing)
    3) Stylus input and touch interface.
    4) Microsoft OneNote support or something really close to that product.
    5) Lightweight ( which means I would lean toward the 1 screen version )
    6) Wifi, Bluetooth, ability to tether ( I would love to have 3G, but Rogers in Canada is way too expensive )
  • Courier anyone?

    Maybe some of the engineers of that tablet went to Kno?
    Roque Mocan
  • RE: Will the Kno Tablet finally make e-textbooks mainstream?

    Anything is possible when it comes to technologies these days. You can actually do everything that you want to do with these new gadgets, so, I won't be surprised that they'll take e-textbook mainstream to the next level. We just know they can.