I suppose that, looked at from the right angle (and by that I mean “marketing”), this is genius. The Cliff’s Notes people are teaming up with AOL to create short video versions of the famously shortened classics.
Although they still clearly exist, I have to assume that the rise of Google pretty much killed the Cliff’s Notes market. Once upon a time you had to borrow it from a friend, get it out of the library, or heaven forbid go buy your copy at the store. Now you just google “Romeo and Juliet summary” or your own favorite variant thereof, and presto, 9 times out of 10 you’ve got a free answer to your questions.
All they’ve got left, really, is the brand. You can still get Cliff’s Notes, but why would you? Because something in your brain tells you that their quality is better than just googling the answer.
So, they’re hoping to carry that brand over into the video market. Just like with google, there’s plenty of video already out there for short, amusing versions of Shakespeare. First one that came to mind, 90 Second Macbeth:
See what I mean about quality? Do you want to sift through a YouTube’s worth of these? Or would you rather just fire up iTunes and pay 99 cents for something that’s professionally produced by the people that made their name summarizing classic literature? (Note, I have no idea if 99cent iTunes downloads are in their plans, it just seems like a logical distribution mechanism…)