In its first major announcement since the death of Steve Jobs, Apple Inc. today unveiled plans for iBooks 2 and iBooks Author in an effort to transform the digital textbook market.
Phil Schiller, Senior VP of Worldwide Marketing, started by detailing the vast number of educational apps — over 20,000 — available for the iPad. Schiller declared simply, “We want to reinvent the textbook.”
The move has excited education technology enthusiasts — and likely has school administrators and education officials struggling with how they might handle the fiscal implications of such a major change to how textbooks are purchased and used.
With over 1.5 million iPads currently used in education, Apple sees iBooks 2 as the beginning of the end for the ‘big backpack’ and a major step in taking advantage of the device’s portability and cost-effectiveness.
Databases such as Lexis-Nexis will be integrated into iBooks 2 texts to create a more dynamic user experience. Roger Rosner, VP of Apple’s iWork, said, “Clearly, no printed textbook can compete” with iBooks 2′s interactive digital texts.
The iPad’s ability to play video and combine information from many sources — as well as simply improving on the basic functionality of the current generation of eReaders — has positioned it to lead the evolution of the digital textbook, said one expert.
iBooks 2 appears to improve some traditional student practices such as creating study cards and flashcards. The app allows for highlighting and note-taking to be converted easily into study and review aids.
Books can be owned ‘forever’ and re-downloaded at any time from the cloud.
iBooks 2 is available today at no cost in Apple’s app store.
iBooks Author will allow anyone to create interactive texts — from academic textbooks to cookbooks to children’s books — using templates that quickly assemble text and multimedia into a digital textbook form. The app is built on the “WYSIWYG” princple: “What You See Is What You Get,” making it simple for aspiring content creators to enter the book market. Both entry-level users and skilled coders, such as those who can use HTML5, will be able to take advantage of iBooks Author’s features.
Nearly-instant glossary creation features streamline and speed up one of the more time-consuming, difficult tasks for amateurs.
iBooks Author is also available free of charge in the app store.
High school textbooks will be rolled out first — and priced at $14.99 or less, and students would own texts for life. Apple partnered with major educational publishers including Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to develop iBooks Author. Pearson has developed texts on Algebra 1, Biology, Environmental Science and Geometry that are used already by 4 million students. Two appear in the store today.
McGraw-Hill has made Algebra 1, Biology, Chemistry, Geometry and Physics texts — used by 3 million students currently — with all 5 books available today.
Experts predict that Apple’s move will convince many more schools to commit to using iPads in the classroom.
iTunes U has become its own app and has been improved to facilitate teachers posting syllabi, assignments and messages for students. The app allows for students to experience a broad range of multimedia in an accessible curriculum. iTunes U will be fully-integrated with iBooks 2. Duke, Yale, Stanford and others have already created several hundred courses for iTunes U, which is freely available in 123 countries. K-12 school districts will also be able to offer courses via iTunes U.