, originally part of a website called The Spark, is a company started by Sam Yagan, Max Krohn, and Chris Coyne in 1999
that provides free in-depth commentary, analysis and study guides for literature, poetry, history, film and philosophy.
Barnes & Noble acquired SparkNotes.com in 2001 for a price of $3.55 million.
TheSpark.com was launched January 7 1999
as a dating website by four Harvard students. Most of TheSpark's users were high school and college students, and so the first six literature study guides (entitled "SparkNotes") were published on April 7 1999
in order to increase its popularity. The SparkNotes.com website was launched on September 1 1999
. In 2000 the site was sold to iTurf Inc
. The following year SparkNotes was bought by Barnes & Noble
and fifty literature study guides were chosen to be published in print form. When Barnes & Noble printed SparkNotes, they also stopped selling their chief competitor, CliffsNotes
. Until then, the only content on the website were literature study guides but in January 2003 the The SparkNotes Test Prep, a practice test service, started. This project was followed by SparkCharts, which are meant to serve as reference sheets summarizing the topic, and No Fear Shakespeare, a transcription of Shakespeare's plays into modern English.
SparkNotes also offers content and services related to the SAT
, and AP
tests, paraphrases of Shakespeare
into modern English, exercises for high school teachers, and a message board
Its current owner, Barnes & Noble, sells printed versions of the study guides in the United States and Chapters in Canada, in a format similar to that of CliffsNotes.
SparkNotes has moved into educational publishing with books like Poetry Classics and FlashKids, a series of educational books for K-8 students.
Many school teachers have blamed the website as a cheating tool for students, who use Sparknotes as a replacement for doing reading assignments or during tests using cellphones with internet access. Sparknotes has many study guides for different works of literature, and these study guides have summaries of each chapter which can be read by students instead of reading the actual material.
SparkNotes say they do not support any form of academic dishonesty , including plagiarism. Students can read the actual book, and then check SparkNotes to compare their own interpretation of the text with the SparkNotes analysis.