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Apple shakes up textbook publishing

Rumours of Apple’s entry into the digital textbook market were confirmed this morning with the announcement of iBooks 2.

The latest version of Apple’s e-reading platform focuses on media-rich, interactive digital textbooks designed for the iPad. Education publishers McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – which comprise approximately 90 per cent of U.S. textbook market sales – have signed on as the first content partners.

But it’s not just international corporations that will have the capability to produce and sell e-textbook content. Apple also announced iBooks Author, a free DIY ebook app that has been compared to GarageBand, Apple’s audio-editing software that has made digital recording and sound engineering accessible to independent musicians and podcast producers.

“Education is deep in our DNA,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice-president of world-wide marketing, at a launch event at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Schiller also noted that education institutions already use “more than 1.5 million iPads and have access to more than 20,000 education apps,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Apple’s move into education isn’t all about the children. If a publisher wants to take advantage of the platform, it has to sign an exclusivity contract with Apple, and keep textbook prices at $14.99 or less (of which Apple takes its customary 30 per cent cut). While the lower price is great for students, there is the upfront cost of purchasing an iPad. And as tech website Engadget points out, with all the interactive graphics and video, the first released e-textbooks take up anywhere from 800MB to 2.77GB of memory, which means it won’t take much to fill a low-end 16GB tablet. Also, what happens when the classroom iPad breaks?

Reaction from Twitter users has been mixed:

  • http://twitter.com/scieditor Adrienne Montgomerie

    As excited as I am by this platform, the $15 textbook does not have sufficient marketability to afford the editing and design (and writing, pedagogical expertise, dozens of reviewers, etc.) that currently go into them.

  • Michel

    never mind that how many students can afford the ipad to read their textbooks on?

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