Kno, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based startup that plans to launch a two-screen “digital textbook” later this year, today announced that it has raised a $46-million financing round led by Andreessen Horowitz, with Silicon Valley Bank and TriplePoint Capital also participating in the debt and equity funding. The latest cash infusion brings the total raised by the company to $55 million, which the company says should provide enough resources to get its tablet to market by the end of this year.
This is Kno founder Osman Rashid’s second crack at revolutionizing the textbook market: He’s also the founder and former CEO of Chegg, a startup that rents access to university textbooks. Kno is a much more ambitious project, however, since it involves launching a new hardware device and a software platform at the same time. The Kno — which runs a version of Linux and uses the Chrome browser as its interface — is designed to replicate the printed textbook, but also allows users to write notes on the screen and search through the text. The company has a beta trial underway with several textbook publishers, including McGraw-Hill and Wiley.
Kno isn’t the only company who wants to use a tablet to revolutionize the textbook business: A startup called Inkling is also going after that prize, but it’s using the iPad as a platform, rather than building a dedicated device. The company recently launched its software, which allows for a wide range of interactivity within a digital textbook, including 3-D spinning molecules that can be rotated in any direction. Inkling has also been funded by a group of venture capital firms — including Sequoia Capital, Sherpalo Ventures and former Google staffer Aydin Senkut’s Felicis Ventures — although the size of the funding round hasn’t been released.
Until the Kno hits the market, it’s difficult to say whether it will get widespread adoption by students (or parents). The company hasn’t said exactly how much the device will cost, but has estimated that it will be under $1,000, which could be a hefty price tag for some. It’s also not clear how much the company’s digital textbooks will cost, or whether they will be bundled with the device. Plus, the two-panel tablet looks fairly bulky, which could be an issue as well. Inkling’s solution is somewhat less expensive, since it’s based on the cheaper (and lighter) iPad, which some students may already own or be thinking of buying.
Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d): Analyzing the Social E-book