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Cliffs Notes

Cliffs Notes are the best-known series of student study guides in the U.S. They synopsize and explain literary and other works in short, pamphlet form.

Supporters say they to help students understand the works, detractors say they help students avoid having to actually read them.

The company was started by a Nebraska native named Cliff Hillegass in 1958. He was working in a bookstore when he met the owner of a series of Canadian study guides called Cole's Notes, who suggested that Hillegass create an American version. Hillegass started with booklets covering 16 William Shakespeare titles; CliffsNotes now exist on thousands of works.

John Wiley & Sons, a publisher of scientific and technical publications, bought CliffsNotes in 2001.