Apple set to shake up textbook publishing with iBooks 2 and iTunes U, if it can get iPads to students

Jan 19, 2012
Education

It seems the rumors were right: Apple used its announcement today in New York to drop iBooks 2 on the world, with brand new support for textbook publishing in the app that stands to revolutionize the way students consume learning materials, and how publishers create it. For a lot of tech writers around the Internet, […]

It seems the rumors were right: Apple used its announcement today in New York to drop iBooks 2 on the world, with brand new support for textbook publishing in the app that stands to revolutionize the way students consume learning materials, and how publishers create it.

For a lot of tech writers around the Internet, iBooks 2 sounds a death knell for the print publishing of textbooks. Of course, it’s easy and tempting to call the race right out of the gate, and Apple has some compelling things going for it. For one, iBooks 2 is going to help provide textbooks for substantially cheaper than they have been in the past, and any college student alive can tell you what a racket the current textbook system is. A single $500 iPad can cost the same as a semester’s worth of books, and having that iPad can eliminate a lot of stress long-term for students, like carrying heavy books, selling them back at the end of the semester (which always compounded the feeling of being ripped-off for me) and struggling to find correct editions. The up-front cost is high, but the long-term benefits seem to be in the iPad’s favor.

College students know going into each semester that they’re getting ripped off by a system set up against them, and with textbooks on iBooks 2 dropping the price tag considerably, from between $50 and $100 to a mere $15, it already is set up to make a big splash among lots of students.

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What’s more, Apple’s conception of iBooks will make for better textbooks. Interactive questions, glossary searches from within text, video and audio integrated with the material – these are things that just make sense in terms of education. Apple says it already has 1.5 million iPads in classrooms and schools across the U.S., with 200,000 iPads developed specifically for education. Expanding that base will be important if Apple is going to really revolutionize education, but Apple already has the know-how to make it happen, given the proliferation of Apple II and iMac computers in schools during the 1990s. If there’s a thing Apple does well, it’s get in good with educational institutions.

It’ll come down to whether Apple can convince people who don’t have an iPad that they need one for education purposes, and offering the devices cheap to elementary and high schools will go a long way toward that end. There are a lot of benefits that can come out of an Apple-driven revolution of the way we use information in education, and iBooks 2 can be the forefront of that push; it’s just a matter of showing enough people that the new way far outpaces the old. Expect to see iPads showing up in a whole lot more classrooms as Apple sets about convincing the world that learning from a tablet textbook is far superior to the old method. If that proves to be true, educators could have a powerful new tool for facilitating learning at their disposal.

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But the first step is getting more iPads into the hands of students, so the initial cost of the device is going to play a big role.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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