Kno is launching its first e-textbooks for the K-12 market tonight.
Here’s the thing: It’s entering a market that doesn’t really exist. Most public schools issue textbooks to students. Why pay for something you get for free?
Here’s why Kno CEO Osman Rashid think he can get parents to pay $9.99 a year to rent textbooks: backpacks, he told us.
It’s well-documented that schoolkids are suffering back pain from schlepping around all their textbooks.
So Rashid’s pitch: Rent a digital version of the same textbook your kids use at school so they don’t have to carry it home.
Kno’s textbooks run on iPad, Android, and Windows 7 devices, as well as the Web. It faces competition from Amazon and Apple—though Rashid makes a compelling argument why Apple won’t dominate the e-textbook market.
It’s not clear that this is a moneymaking move for Kno. It’s partnering with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the titles. Rashid wouldn’t disclose financial details of the arrangement, but conceded that Kno sometimes offers e-textbooks at a loss.
Instead, he’s aiming for grassroots adoption of Kno’s digital textbooks by parents, in the hopes that they’ll become ubiquitous enough in classrooms to spur slow-moving school bureaucracies into striking deals with Kno.
It’s a strategy akin to what startups like Yammer do in enterprise software. Call it the consumerization of education.
Rashid’s not relying entirely on the bottoms-up approach. Kno is also partnering with ClassBook.com, a New York-based company which sets up online bookstores for school systems to sell digital textbooks to schools.