Apple Joins the Digital Textbook Game

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Today Apple announced a suite of products aimed at creating and publishing digital education textbooks during an Education Event in New York City at the Guggenheim Museum. The iBook Author app will allow users to author and create textbooks and publish them to the newly designed iBooks 2 store. Additional store content will be created by current textbook powerhouses Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt who currently produce 90 percent of traditional textbooks.
For now the iBooks 2 textbook section will have textbooks available in every subject of study for high-school content and will be priced under $15. Apple says these products will create a new textbook experience for iPad. During the announcement Apple’s senior vice president of world-wide marketing, Phillip Schiller said, “These are beautiful books. Interactive, gorgeous, fun, engaging.”
iBooks 2 will aim to improve the current textbook industry that frustrated Steve Jobs. The digital textbooks will be interactive, current, searchable and affordable. Apple says features like note taking and quizzes within the digital textbooks will allow for immediate feedback for users.  Both Pearson and McGraw-Hill books are featured in the iBook store and both CEOs were prominent in the launch.
iTunes U will also now be available for the K-12 community via iTunes U app for the iPad, iPhone or iPod. With expanded functionality K-12 educators and students will soon be able manage syllabi and create online courses that feature videos, e-books and podcasts. Imagine assigning a chapter for students to read in a course syllabus and with one click students are taken directly to chapter within the linked e-book. After completing the chapter they would be taken to an embedded quiz and given instant results that are simultaneously sent to the teacher as well.
While these products are exciting and will continue to increase iPad use in schools, there are education experts that are hoping for a more transformational change to how students engage with content. Are we asking students to be consumers or producers of content? Some would argue that iPads are a stunning way for students to consume content, but have not been as successful at allowing students to create content as laptops with dedicated keyboards.
Getting Smart author Tom Vander Ark says, “iBook Author has great functionality but ‘textbook’ is both a misnomer and a dated concept.  In the post textbook world, content mashups on social platforms like Edmodo will be more prevalent and will be accompanied by adaptive content sequences driven by smart engines.  The most frequent use of iBook Author will be for mini-books—project specific content.”

Caroline Vander Ark

Caroline is President of Getting Smart.

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