Apple announces iBooks 2, iBook Author for textbooks

Krystal Peak · January 19, 2012 · Short URL:

High school, college students could be waving bye-bye to hefty textbook prices in favor of iBooks

While technology has helped people improve and access education anywhere and everywhere, textbooks have been slow to get on the high-tech train.

It looks like textbook could be the next frontier in the digital book revolution, and Apple is ready to be an integral part in this educational shift.

In an Apple education event held Thursday morning, the company released some interesting numbers about the use of iPads in the learning arena. Apple's Marketing SVP announced that 20,000 learning apps had already been built for the iPad platform.

“Education is deep in our DNA, and it has been since the very beginning,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s SVP of Worldwide Marketing. 

More than 1.5 million iPads are currently in use in educational institutions and schools -- a number that is only set to increase as more parents, teachers and institutions add iPad to the school year shopping lists and budgets.

The announcement of education growth in the iPad industry also marks the launch of iBooks 2 -- a reimagination of e-books, specifically focused on textbook material. 

Authors, using the new iBooks Author tool, will be able to create rich interaction for learning and integrate different types of media in order to create a new way to interact with educational material. Imagine students able to read the chapter on nutriton and then being able to click on video, pictures and diagrams that they could interact with. 

This could mean the end of paper textbooks and the hefty price tags that are always connected to them. And could equate to some pretty angry publishers that usually love to release new editions with just minimal changes and the heart-attack rendering prices.

It wasn't long ago that I was faced with those crippling textbook prices and would have given my right arm for a digital fix. Over the summer, a report came out that 25% of college students said that they would give up sex if it meant never having to carry around another textbook again.  Unsurprsingly, the survey was supported by a digital e-reader app Kno (which is available for the iPad) with over 70,000 textbooks available to buy or rent for 30-50% off the original price.

Another company that is focused on digital textbook rental, Chegg has seen great interest in moving all those hardback books onto mobile and Web devices in order to save money and energy. 

The education publishing industry -- $4.5 billion net sales revenue in 2010 for higher education and $5.5 billion for K-12 -- is one of the few markets Apple has not yet tapped. By adding this current software, more people may even be able to break into the textbook publishing industry when it may not have been as easy to go through traditional channels.

We have seen a glimpse of the Apple sucess with interactive iBooks when it released Yellow Submarine last December. This iBook featured 14 video clips from the 1968 film, audio clips of the accompanying Beatles' music and Sir George Martin's score, a "read aloud" functionality that allows readers to follow along with a narrator, and interactive features that let readers tap the screen and make the pictures move.

It will be interesting to see just how rapidly authors and publishers convert their content into the digital world and what that will spell for students that will need to pinch to make the initial investment for the iPad if it means saving on textbooks over their educational career.

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