Apple Plans to Revolutionize Textbooks
Apple announced today that they are launching a new service for their popular iPad tablet called iBooks 2, where academic publishers and authors can make interactive, highly specialized versions of their educational books and textbooks. This new Apple iBook 2 service is a way for Apple (stock ticker: AAPL) to completely revolutionize and dominate the high school, university, and college textbook market. Much like iTunes did for music, this iBook service combined with iTunes U, will likely ignite the transition away from physical printing and move the entire educational publishing into the e-book market. It will also drive even more widespread adoption of their iPad tablet line, as college students who commonly pay hundreds of dollars each semester for textbooks will likely buy a $500 iPad.
Why Apple’s iBooks 2 Idea Works Now
The multi-touch technology is finally available with the iPad to feature embedded videos, 3D graphics, hi-res images, diagrams, highlighting, embedded dictionary, and more to make textbooks even more compelling. Educational publishers like McGraw Hill, Pearson/Prentice Hall, W. W. Norton and others have had online resources available for some time as complementary material to their physical texts. But the real question for educators has been the usage. How many college and university students read all the material in the text, then visit and use all of the resources online?
What Apple plans to do with iBooks 2 is to make the entire course materials available in one portable place. In the space and weight of less than one normal college textbook, students could have access to all of their material for the entire academic year. iBooks 2 also helps students with new study features -- like the dictionary, book search, and the ability to make flashcards -- and other note-taking additions.
This wider use of the supplementary content will likely appeal to the publishers of that online content because it has already been created and developed. The publishers resistance will likely be over the margins and mark-up on the physical books themselves, and the lucrative used college textbook market. The intitial releases -- priced at $14.99 or less -- include Apple’s deals with major publishers Pearson, McGraw Hill, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and those with smaller outfits EO Wilson Biodiversity Foundation and DK.
Apple also announced iBook Author, free application for Mac
With the release of iBook Author (version 1.0), a Mac application to create content iBooks 2 content for the iPad, Apple is clearly counting on the textbook writers and authors to push or pull the publishers onto this platfrorm. The software helps those who want to create a textbook easily make an iPad-optimized version.
The chance for authors to create multi-touch textbooks for iPad may truly revolutionize academic publishing. The free iBooks Author app program includes widgets to embed interactive galleries of relevant photos, full Apple Keynote presentations (i.e. Apple’s Powerpoint), 3D objects, and more using a number of Apple’s starter templates. Previewing the book on an iPad is available, and then authors can submit the work to the iBookstore. (Amazon’s Kindle ebook business is in the cross-hairs of that functionality!) At this time iBook Author is a 136MB application which requires Mac OS 10.7.2 or later, and is already available in English, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, polish, Portugues, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish. Apple is clearly counting on -- and preparing for -- widespread adoption!
The Green Aspects of the iBooks 2 Service on the iPad
Academic publishers routinely release new editions of textbooks just to refresh sales. For example, a 350-page soft-back text with very little fresh content wouldn’t see eight editions in a several year period if this wasn’t the case. After the cycle of new texts, new course offerings, used books, and then new editions -- many of these textbooks become completely obselete within a few years. What university professor or college lecturer would ever choose to use an older edition of a textbook when students, parents, administration, and the community demands that education stays on the cutting edge?
And digital copies of texts won’t fill up landfills or recycling centers... Apple’s iBook 2 Service will make book updates and revisions so much simpler. The publishers now are likely using digital printing templates, but the expensive and time-consuming process is the actual manufacturing of the books. This will have a major impact on book publishing.
Conclusion - Major Changes Ahead for Textbooks
The iBooks 2 service from Apple for the iPad platform should revolutionize academic textbook publishing over the next few years. It makes sense that this is a service, rather than a separate academic device -- since the iPad line has already been developed. (The iBook name was an early Apple laptop brand which became its book app. It always made sense to keep the iBook name to go after this market.) It will also likely mean tens of thousands of new iPad sales for Apple at hundreds of colleges, universities, and schools across the country, and around the world.