Inkling nabs $17M to bring textbooks to the iPad

Inkling, the digital textbook software startup, has closed on $17 million in new funding.

The San Francisco-based company will use the money to hire more employees and meet the growing appetite it’s seeing from traditional textbook publishers, CEO Matt MacInnis told me in a recent interview. “There’s effectively unlimited demand,” he said.

Founded in 2009, Inkling works with publishers such as McGraw Hill and Pearson to rebuild college textbooks for use on the iPad (s AAPL). But Inkling does far more than simply a traditional print-to-PDF conversion, MacInnis says. The company works to bring the content to life by incorporating interactive features, 3-D models and audio visual applications into each digital title. Inkling currently has around 60 full-time employees, and hopes to hire “any and all good talent we can find” in the months ahead, MacInnis said.

Inkling CEO Matt MacInnis

Inkling also plans to use some of the funding to expand its current headquarters from 10,000 square feet to 20,000 square feet. “We’re really focused on doubling down on our approach,” MacInnis said.

To be sure, Inkling is not without competitors: Santa Clara, Calif.-based e-learning startup Kno, for instance, recently pivoted to become a pure-play educational software company. And bookselling giants Amazon (s AMZN) and Barnes & Noble have both made entries into the digital textbook space.

For his part, MacInnis says he is not daunted by the competitive landscape. “We’re a swing for the fences type of company,” he said. “This funding will put us in a position to be a big standalone business.”

Digital publishing is certainly a hot space right now: On Tuesday, Facebook acquired e-book startup Push Pop Press for an undisclosed sum. And textbooks are particularly in need of a digital revolution: Recent studies indicate that student demand for electronic versions of required reading materials is higher than ever.

Inkling has not disclosed how much money it brought in during its seed and series A rounds. Its latest funding round was led by Tenaya Capital with participation from Jafco Ventures, Pearson Education and Sequoia Capital.

Here’s a video of an Inkling textbook in action:

Anatomy & Physiology – Kenneth S. Saladin from Inkling on Vimeo.