Inkling, which is the leader in reinventing textbooks as collaborative learning environments, has expanded its offerings well beyond the formal educational market by bringing consumer-friendly titles such as The Professional Chef, from The Culinary Institute of America, to the iPad.
Despite a price tag of $50, the Pro Chef app quickly shot up to the second-most downloaded app in the iTunes store during the week after its appearance and the top-selling lifestyle app.
In addition, the Inkling platform is now powering consumer titles by licensing its technology to Open Air Publishing (OAP), with a new cookbook, Food52 Holiday Recipe & Survival Guide, by former New York Times writers Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs.
(A title published earlier by OAP/Inkling is Speakeasy Cocktails.)
"Inkling is a really well-designed platform for learning for people well beyond the academic setting," says Jon Feldman, CEO of OAP. "We're thrilled to be working with them."
Inkling CEO Matt MacInnis told me, “It is a planned broadening of our strategy. You'll be seeing more titles of this sort in the future. But we are still focused on textbooks, and ProChef really is a textbook, used in culinary institutes. It's the rare title that also has cross-market appeal.”
To get ProChef, users can download the Inkling app for free, and then either purchase the entire 1,400-page cookbook for $50, or purchase chapters for $2.99 each. The images and over 100 instructional videos are stunning, but what is unique is the suite of interactive features like shared notes and highlighting, interactive quizzes and glossaries that are characteristic of Inkling’s other textbooks.
This is really the essence of how the company is using the iPad to explore new methods of learning that reach well beyond the classroom to embrace social media networks like Facebook, where teachers and students can help each other improve their skills collectively.
“We're very interested in seeing how the mix between chefs and consumers plays out,” says MacInnis. “That kind of social interaction is hard to predict.
“Our ultimate goal is to be a platform that allows people to take our technology to places that we never could have anticipated,” he adds. “We will let the market tell us what it likes.”
Inkling's partner at Open Air Publishing, Jon Feldman, agrees. "We think that as books are shifting to digital, we can rethink what a book is from the ground up. They're part-books, part-info-graphics, part-touch and part video. Especially in the 'how-to' category, we're finding that video is really important."