Apple iBooks a Place in the Classroom
Yesterday saw Apple’s ‘Big Education Announcement’ and as widely expected, this announcement took them into the textbook market. The new iBooks app introduces some exciting developments to the eBook market that could help Apple to further boost sales of Macs, iPhones and iPads. The iBooks app wasn’t the only app released by Apple yesterday – a new iTunes U app was launched and also an app for the Mac called iBooks Author which will allow users to make their own iBooks compatibles material.
So what are these new features?
Well, the most important one is that textbooks are optimised for iPad so some of the content won’t work on smaller screened devices. This is a benefit rather than a problem – who wants to read an algebra textbook on an iPhone? Then we have the interactive animations and diagrams – users can engage with pictures by rotating 3D models or triggering an animation. Students will also be able to highlight and note-take with ease, and if they need a hand with the meaning of a word, simply clicking on a word will bring up a definition from the book’s glossary. Textbooks from the iBookstore can also feature study aids such as lesson reviews and study cards.
The new iBooks app fits in with the new iTunes U app which will (hopefully) give students all the materials they need to study entire courses – including presentations, videos of lectures, course materials and even assignments. Notes taken in iBooks appear automatically in iTunes U for students to arrange and review. Free courses from a number of leading universities such as Stanford and Oxford are already available and there are over 500,000 free lectures available.
While the iBooks Author app isn’t strictly mobile, it’s worth discussing anyway as it allows anyone to quickly create iBooks by dragging and dropping in images, Microsoft Word files, video and other types of media. iBooks Author is template based (but it’s not mandatory to use them) so creating a visually appealing textbook with interactive elements should be simple. From the application, textbooks can be published to the iBookstore.
Apple says that ‘most’ of the textbooks in the iBookstore will be available for around $14.99 which represents a huge saving on traditional textbooks. Whether educational publishers will be happy to drop their prices and give Apple a 30% cut remains to be seen; education is a particularly captive market and students generally have to buy the text mandated by their course rather than shopping around for cheaper titles. Of course, if Apple’s venture into the educational world is successful, then rather than a sturdy bag for all those books, the essential student purchase will be an iPad.