Inkling launched their long promised browser based textbook app today and it’s rather disappointing. Inkling had talked up how the new web app would support everyone, but it turns out that the vast majority of the market isn’t supported; right now Inkling’s app doesn’t work on anything besides Safari and Chrome. That’s barely
30% 38% of the market. But I suppose that’s still an improvement over the iPad app, given that at best one college student in six has an iPad.
So go fire up Chrome and let’s take a look.
Inkling’s app is rather limited in features at the moment, when compared to NookStudy or Kindle for PC. Inkling’s textbooks are PDF style full pages, and you cannot zoom in or out. There’s also no multi-page view or text reflow and printing is also disabled. Annotation is also rather paltry when compared to the competition. You can highlight or attach a (public or private) note to a high light but that’s it.
Copy/paste isn’t supported inside the app, and that’s going to seriously inhibit the usefulness when a student goes to cite a section of the textbook. What’s more, not only does Inkling’s competition (K4PC, NookStudy) allow for copying, both of those apps will also automatically create a citation for the copied text. (This isn’t relevant to Inkling, but I think it’s very cool.)
While the app is missing basic textbook abilities, Inkling does have a few advantages in terms of active content. There is of course the embedded video and 3d model, but there are also more subtle tricks – like the way the Frommers guidebook titles can pull current weather info for the related region and show it inside the ebook; that’s rather cool.
All in all, thanks to the support for rich content this isn’t a bad app – assuming I only want to use content I bought from Inkling. But as a general academic tool it comes up short against NookStudy and Kindle 4 PC. Those apps are parts of ecosystems which span your PC and numerous other devices, including ereaders, Android tablets, iPads, and many other devices.
I’ve said before that cross-platform support is important in order to get the most value out of your content. Inkling still hasn’t pulled that off.