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Kno To Launch Higher Ed-Specific E-Reader

Startup Kno has begun showing its two-display, touchscreen e-reader designed specifically for higher education use. According to its makers, Kno (short for "knowledge") will blend textbooks, course material, note-taking, Web access, educational applications, digital media, and sharing features.

The company said the new device is expected to go into beta testing in the fall semester 2010 and will be available for sale in late fall in the United States. The Kno platform supports Flash, HTML5, PDF, and ePub file formats.

The idea behind the design is to replicate the "book experience by fully preserving the publishers' carefully defined page structure," Kno said in a statement. Charts and graphs are presented in the same manner as a physical textbook, and students can take notes and highlight directly on the virtual page. The two-panels of the interface operate independently from each other, allowing the user, for example, to view a book on one panel and open a browser or digital notebook on the other.

At intervals, the content of the device will be backed up to the cloud. If the device breaks or is lost, students will be able to access their textbooks and notes from a browser in a Web portal.

Kno said it is working with publishers to ensure availability of required textbooks and course materials for students by product launch later this year. It has announced "strategic relationships" with Cengage Learning, McGraw Hill, Pearson, and Wiley for the beta program, specifically. The company said further distribution and pricing details would be announced over the next several months. Students will download textbook content from a Kno store.

The store will also allow developers to host and sell their applications. The first step is to release a software development kit, which will support JavaScript, HTML5, and CSS, along with application programming interfaces for supporting pen, dual touchscreens, and contextual menus for content sharing. That's expected in beta form for a limited number of developers before the end of the year, according to the company.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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