Apple has launched iBooks 2, designed to bring an interactive textbook experience to the iPad, along with an authoring tool and a new iTunes U. The potential impact is huge.
a new education initiative Jan. 19 at a high-profile event at New York City's
Guggenheim Museum that focused on "reinventing textbooks" and using technology
to make the classroom more engaging for students.
deep in our DNA," Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide
marketing, told the assembled media, according to several live feeds from the
event. Indeed, for years, Apple has positioned itself as a particularly
education-friendly company. Its latest announcements, however, elevate that
stance to a whole new level.
2 is designed to bring a "new textbook experience" to the iPad, which the
company views as an evolution beyond traditional paperbound textbooks. These
interactive textbooks will feature not only multimedia, such as video and
touchable graphics, but also tools, such as highlighting and search. The
software platform converts students' notes into study cards, and alters the
textbook's layout, depending on the tablet's orientation.
initiative, iBooks Author, lets authors and publishers create those interactive
textbooks. The interface seems reminiscent of Apple's other productivity
software; it offers the ability to add everything from text to graphics by dragging-and-dropping,
with text flowing automatically around each added element. Available as a free
download in the Mac App Store, Apple intends for content creators to produce
textbooks for every subject at every level, for $19.99. Any e-book created via
iBooks can be published to a special area of Apple's iBookstore hub.
big education announcement, the revamped iTunes U, is a free application that
gives educators the ability to distribute course materials and video or audio
lectures, as well as view presentations. As with iBooks Author, Apple is
emphasizing the supposed ease-of-use in constructing a full course, via the
iTunes U Course Manager.
leading up to Apple's event, rumors leaked that the company was prepping something
related to textbooks. Before his death, Apple CEO Steve Jobs long harbored an
abiding interest in creating some sort of textbook-related product. "He wanted
to disrupt the textbook industry and save the spines of spavined students
bearing backpacks by creating electronic texts and curriculum material for the
iPad," read one passage in Jobs' recent biography by Walter Isaacson. At
another point, Jobs "agreed" with News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch that "the paper
textbook business would be blown away by digital learning materials."
Of Apple's new
announcements, iBooks Author in particular, seems destined to toss the company
into even fiercer competition with Amazon, which is also moving from book
distributor to more of a book producer. Apple's easy-to-use tools and digital
distribution could also have a seismic impact on a traditional publishing
industry looking to find its place amid a rapidly evolving digital landscape.
Apple's education initiatives have a similarly massive effect on school districts,
at least in the short term, is a big question.
Nicholas Kolakowski on Twitter
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.