Type of site
|Owner||Barnes & Noble|
|Created by||Sam Yagan, Max Krohn, Chris Coyne, and Eli Bolotin|
|Launched||September 1, 1999|
SparkNotes, originally part of a website called The Spark, is a company started by Harvard students Sam Yagan, Max Krohn, Chris Coyne, and Eli Bolotin in 1999 that originally provided study guides for literature, poetry, history, film, and philosophy. Later on, SparkNotes expanded to provide study guides for a number of other subjects, including biology, chemistry, economics, health, math, physics, and sociology. Until 2022, when SparkNotes Plus, a paid service, released, SparkNotes did not charge users to use all of its resources. SparkNotes receives revenue from advertisements.
TheSpark.com was a literary website launched by four Harvard students on January 7, 1999. Most of TheSpark's users were high school and college students. To increase the site's popularity, the creators published the first six literature study guides (called "SparkNotes") on April 7, 1999.
In 2000, the creators sold the site to iTurf Inc. The following year, Barnes & Noble purchased SparkNotes and selected fifty literature study guides to publish in print format. When Barnes & Noble printed SparkNotes, they stopped selling their chief competitor, CliffsNotes.
In January 2003, SparkNotes developed a practice test service called SparkNotes Test Prep. This project was followed by the release of SparkCharts, reference sheets that summarize a topic; No Fear Shakespeare, transcriptions of Shakespeare's plays into modern language; and No Fear Literature, transcriptions of literary classics like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Scarlet Letter into modern language.
In April 2022, a paid service, SparkNotes Plus, released, locking many works from the No Fear Shakespeare series, their modern translations of Shakespeare plays, among other things, behind a pay-wall, and adding new features.
SparkNotes Test Prep provides content and services related to the ACT, and AP, GRE and PSAT/SAT I and II standardized tests. Barnes & Noble sells printed versions of the test prep study guides, as well as SparkCharts and other printed study materials, in the United States and at Chapters in Canada.
The SparkNotes.com website also includes a section for students to search for colleges.
SparkNotes has moved into educational publishing with books, such as Poetry Classics and FlashKids, a series of educational books for Kindergarten to grade 8 students. They also provide exercises for high school teachers.
- 50 pre-installed study guides in the app library
- Hundreds of study guides available for viewing online
- The ability to download any study guide to the mobile device for offline use
- The ability to share what one is studying and one's status by checking in with a customized post to Facebook
This article's Criticism or Controversy section may compromise the article's neutral point of view of the subject. (January 2020)
Because SparkNotes provides study guides for literature that include chapter summaries, many teachers see the website as a cheating tool. These teachers argue that students can use SparkNotes as a replacement for actually completing reading assignments with the original material or to cheat during tests using cell phones with Internet access.
SparkNotes states that it does not support academic dishonesty or plagiarism. Instead, it suggests that students read the original material, and then check SparkNotes to compare their own interpretation of the text with the SparkNotes analysis.
In January 2019, site developers announced a complete redesign of the SparkLife section of the website in order to focus more on literature-related content. This announcement was met with a negative response from SparkLife users due to the removal of user-made accounts, blog posts, and comments.
- "A Brief History of SparkNotes". SparkNotes. SparkNotes LLC. Archived from the original on February 12, 2008. Retrieved February 4, 2008.
- "Barnes & Noble inc, Form 10-Q, Quarterly Report, Filing Date Jun 18, 2001". secdatabase.com. Archived from the original on May 15, 2018. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
- Martin, Stacy (5 September 2004). "SITE SPECIFIC-www.sparknotes.com". San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco: Hearst Communications Inc. Archived from the original on 31 January 2005. Retrieved 19 March 2006.
- Borja, Anais; Lester, Amelia (18 October 2001). "The Rise and Success of Sparknotes". The Harvard Crimson. Harvard: The Harvard Crims0n Inc. Archived from the original on 13 December 2008. Retrieved 19 March 2008.
- Bowman, James (8 August 2003). "Murder Most Foul". The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Archived from the original on 12 August 2007. Retrieved 24 March 2008.
- "SparkNotes Plus: Exclusive, Ad-Free Study Material & Test Prep". SparkNotes. Retrieved April 13, 2022.
- "SparkNotes Mobile Apps". Archived from the original on 19 September 2012. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
- Simnauer, Lauren; Dumler, Christie (20 June 2007). "There's room for sparknotes, too". The View. Zip Publishing. Archived from the original on 21 December 2007. Retrieved 24 March 2008.
- Eger, Andrea (February 22, 2008). "Students love study guides". Tulsa World. World Publishing Co. Retrieved March 2, 2008.
- "Competition for CliffsNotes arrives on the scene. Later, a popular study supplement called "Kramnotes" were put into circulation. Today they serve as one of Sparknotes top competitors. – in print". The Christian Science Monitor. 25 June 2002. Archived from the original on 27 March 2008. Retrieved 24 March 2008.
- Saltz, Molly (January 2, 2006). "No, it's a cheap shortcut that does no one any good". The Register-Guard. Eugene, Oregon, United States. Retrieved March 25, 2008.[permanent dead link]
- "About SparkNotes". SparkNotes. SparkNotes LLC. Archived from the original on February 8, 2008. Retrieved February 6, 2008.
- Kestler, Justin. "Help:The Plagiarism Plague". SparkNotes. SparkNotes LLC. Archived from the original on March 6, 2008. Retrieved February 6, 2008.
- Miller, Erin (January 2, 2006). "Is SparkNotes worthwhile? Yes, used properly it can enhance our education". The Register-Guard. Eugene, Oregon, United States. Retrieved March 24, 2008.[permanent dead link]
- Nguyen, Kim Ngan (2 October 2003). "SparkNotes A Hit With High School Crowd". The Denver Channel. Internet Broadcasting Systems, Inc. Archived from the original on 27 March 2008. Retrieved 24 March 2008.
- Formato, Brynne (February 5, 2004). "A quick study: online sites speed up reading". The Mirror. Fairfield, Connecticut, United States. Retrieved March 25, 2008.[permanent dead link]
- "Coming Soon: The New SparkNotes Blog!". Sparknotes Blog. January 24, 2019. Archived from the original on January 31, 2019.
- "Sparkler Posts » A MESSAGE TO SPARKNOTES EDITORS - please take time to read if you see this". January 31, 2019. Archived from the original on January 31, 2019. Retrieved February 21, 2019.