Apple's Jan. 19 event in New York City will apparently center on tools for creating ebooks, according to the ever-popular unnamed sources speaking to Ars Technica.
"The current state of software tools continues to frustrate authors and publishers alike, with several authors telling Ars that they wish Apple or some other vendor would make a simple app that makes the process as easy as creating a song in GarageBand," read the publication's Jan. 16 posting. "Our sources say Apple will announce such a tool on Thursday."
Rumors about Apple's event have long focused on media and publishing, and perhaps textbooks. Before his death, Apple CEO Steve Jobs 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."
In the battle for e-publishing supremacy, Apple faces a formidable competitor in Amazon, whose Kindle franchise-which includes ebooks-has proved a decisive hit with consumers. On top of that, education is a potentially lucrative segment for any company that can place its products in the hands of thousands or even millions of students; were Apple to make a significant play in that area, it stands to reason that Amazon and other companies would quickly follow with initiatives of their own.
If Ars Technica's report proves correct, then Apple could be aiming at an arguably bigger target than the textbook market. Easy-to-use tools and digital distribution could affect the publishing industry in ways reminiscent of the music industry over the last decade or so. In addition, while such tools could give thousands or even millions of people an outlet for expressing their vision to the larger world, the copyright and revenue issues rocking the music industry suggest that any such paradigm shift will come with its own share of controversies.
Over the past few years, Apple has demonstrated that it can seize an advantage when it pushes a new model for an industry well ahead of other competitors. The only question-besides what it will unveil on Jan. 19-is how long it will take for those rivals to respond.