Apple’s E-Textbook Platform Enters Crowded Field – The Chronicle of Higher Education

More change coming for higher education as Apple begins to focus on education content. (this is a very good thing for all proactive players in education — students, parents, teachers/professors, administrators, techs, etc). From Jeffrey R. Young in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

The company is “reinventing the textbook,” said Philip Schiller, a senior vice president, and “as students are introduced to iPad, remarkable things are happening.” Apple’s leaders identified high schools as the biggest initial market for its new books, though they mentioned potential in higher education as well.

The most unusual offering was iBooks Author, a free book-making program that lets anyone build a rich-media textbook that can be displayed easily on an iPad. Professors can drag in images from their iPhoto libraries, video clips from iTunes, and lecture slides from Apple’s Keynote program (a competitor to Microsoft’s PowerPoint).

A key drawback, however, is how much the new program relies on professors and students adopting Apple products. The book-building program runs only on Macs, not on PC’s, and the resulting textbooks work only on iPads, not on competing Android tablets.

When Apple first released its iTunes software and music store in 2001, it set new standards for digital music that led to the demise of CD’s in favor of 99-cent-per-song downloads. There was nothing else like the iTunes music store at the time, and the company was able to cajole music publishers into accepting lower prices than they wanted to ride the digital-music wave.

When it comes to e-textbooks, though, Apple is hardly the first mover, and it does not seem to have the muscle with book publishers that it flexed with music executives.

I don’t think it matters that they are not the first mover (I owned a Diamond Rio — the first MP3 player; my wife and I now own 9 apple hardware products, not to mention the content we buy via iTunes etc.)

My favorite part about this is that teachers can build their own content. I believe this is where we are heading — like old school coursepacks. The key difference is that much of the content (articles, videos, audio, etc.) will be freely available and this drive down the cost. Additionally, buying snippets of content (sections of chapters vs entire textbooks) should also lower the costs (think of Kindle Singles and .99 cent music downloads and $1.99 tv shows). This does mean more work for teachers, administrators etc., but may also lead to the rise of specialty curators and also print on demand and download on demand types of services.

Young seems concerned that Apple is entering with its own, closed standards and is adding to an already fragmented market, thus delaying our realization of moving to digital textbooks.

As a lifelong student and faculty member member for the past 3 years,  I don’t think e textbooks offer the functionality that traditional textbooks offer (portability, note taking, page marking and searching, etc.) Yes textbooks are expensive, but they serve many needs and offer attributes that e textbooks do not yet offer.

I have spent a lot of time with ebooks (see my amazon and iBook bills) and they still leave much to be desired for educational users. That is why the market has not been realized yet, not because there are too many players with products in a just emerging marketplace.

via Apple’s New E-Textbook Platform Enters an Already Crowded Field – Technology – The Chronicle of Higher Education.


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