Type of site
|Owner||Barnes & Noble|
|Created by||Sam Yagan, Max Krohn, Chris Coyne, and Eli Bolotin|
|Alexa rank||3,904 (September 2018)|
|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, SparkNotes expanded to provide study guides for a number of other subjects, including biology, chemistry, economics, health, math, physics, and sociology. SparkNotes does not charge users but instead earns revenue from advertising.
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.
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 students can use 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.
This article's Criticism or Controversy section may compromise the article's neutral point of view of the subject. (July 2019)
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.