Tablets, iBooks Could End Up as School Budget Busters

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2012-01-19 Print this article Print


5. It's all about the rollout

As Apple noted at its Jan. 19 event, several textbook makers have already rolled out titles on topics ranging from math to science. But a closer inspection of the available books reveals they have a long way to go to accommodate the sheer number and variety of textbooks schools require. Apple is at the mercy of textbook publishers to get titles into its iBookstore. And as history has shown, Apple doesn't like being at the mercy of any stakeholder.

6. Education budgets are notoriously tight

Apple is putting an awful lot of faith in education budgets around the United States. Historically, those budgets have been extremely tight. Current estimates indicate that the average yearly cost of educating a student is about $16,000. Adding the cost of iPads and digital textbooks will other further bump up the costs beyond what is affordable in many districts. Apple might not be delivering as much value to schools as it thinks.

7. The textbooks are storage hogs

In order to make the textbooks as interactive and appealing as possible, publishers are bundling them with all kinds of multimedia content. The only trouble with that is that the book files are huge. In fact, some textbooks in Apple's iBookstore are nearly 3GB in size. In other words, the 16GB iPad 2 might not even be suitable for students, only pushing the cost of ownership higher. That's a problem.

8. Many private schools can't afford it

There is some speculation that private high schools and middle schools might be forced to adopt Apple's iBooks 2, since their parents typically pay for computers and, in some cases, textbooks. But that fails to recognize that private schools have even tighter budgets than public schools, and many are skating on the edge of financial failure. It's unclear how either private or public schools could adopt Apple's new iBooks without further straining their budgets.

9. Interactivity isn't enough

Interactivity stands at the center of Apple's plans. The textbooks include video, 3D images and all kinds of other features to make them more appealing than hard copy textbooks. But let's not forget that teachers have been educating students a certain way for many years, and many of them will be loath to switch to another method. Plus, it's hard to say it'll actually improve learning. Interactivity is not enough of a sales pitch.

10. It presupposes expertise

Aside from requiring users to have iPads, Apple's education strategy assumes both students and teachers have expertise using its tablet. Yes, the software is intuitive and it shouldn't take too long for educated people to get used to it. But in the initial stages it could hold education back. Plus, if the textbooks don't act the way they should, there's no telling what kind of expense and trouble there would be going back to hard copy textbooks. iPad expertise cannot be assumed.

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Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at

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