Apple announced last week a major overhaul to its iBooks app for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch they are calling iBooks2 which will allow textbooks to be sold and used on their devices.
iBooks in the past sold novels and other leisure reading, but this is the first time the application will support academic textbooks. Not only will students be able to read the textbooks , there will also be many interactive features, such as videos, games and quizzes, that a traditional textbook could not support.
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Apple has said none of the textbooks will cost more than $15, which is a far cry from the usual $80-$100 price tag for most academic textbooks. The company also already has partnerships with three of the largest textbook publishers in the United States: Pearson, McGraw Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt- which combined make up 90% of the textbook market in this country. This means that all of the content that is available in traditional textbooks now will likely be available digitally in the very near-future.
While there are some pretty obvious pros to the new iBooks2, looming questions also remain: Will Apple be offering discounts on their devices in order to lure educators/students in? Will school districts be expected to provide the technology to the students free of cost or will students have to pay for their own? iPads currently run from $499.00-$829.00, which is a significant amount of money to pay up front for a delicate item that a teenager may forget on a bus. Will students have to get external hard-drives to store the textbooks? The average textbook is about 1.5 GB which means that a student would fill up a 16GB iPad pretty quickly. Will this replace courses such as biology where a significant amount of the work is done in a physical lab? Will high school students never experience the sacred ritual of fighting with your lab partner over who has to make the first cut into the poor frog at the beginning of the dissection?
Apple is not the only player in the digital textbook market, Google, Amazon and others have all tried it but so far none have really taken off. Apple is surely looking to replicate the success and total market domination of iTunes with it’s re-launch of iBooks.
While obvious challenges and questions remain there is no doubt that iBooks2 is the future of education. It will take some pains, money and a significant overhaul in the way we look at education to get there, but