Apple offers iPad texbooks

Apple will sell e-textbooks designed to run on iPads.

Apple unveiled a new version of its iBooks digital book software that supports textbooks featuring quizzes, note-taking, study cards and other features like the ability to interact with a diagram of an ant.

The service will launch with a small number of high-school titles from McGraw-Hill Cos., Pearson PLC and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Textbooks for courses such as algebra 1, environmental science and biology will be available first, priced at $14.99 or less. Eventually, Apple said, it expects textbooks for almost every subject and grade level. The company also announced iBooks Author, to help developers create interactive titles.

In a media event held at New York’s Guggenheim Museum, Apple executives said textbooks should be portable, searchable, easy to update and provide immediate feedback.

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  1. Here’s hoping the iPad can do for textbooks (at least high school and college; I don’t see grades K-8 adopting this, no matter how cool it is. Little kids break and misplace gadgets too easily!) what the iPod did for music! I would love to see grades 9-12, community colleges, and Universities nationwide walking around with iPads (or some equivalent) with all their textbooks on them in 10-20 years. Of course, a few spare hard copies can be kept in the school library, as a backup reference. But think of the trees / paper that will be saved! Huge resources no longer squandered! (Think about how much volume in textbooks gets thrown away every year; probably more than the volume of pleasure reading books that gets thrown away every year.)

  2. Meh.

  3. Obi-Wandreas says:

    What blows me out of the water is the free software to turn any preexisting document into a multimedia iBook. I will be spending a significant amount of time playing with that.

  4. Ponderosa says:

    Does anyone know what the environmental costs of iPad manufacture is?

    Has anyone thoroughly thought through the ramifications of introducing iPads into the school “ecosystem”? Porn in math class anyone? Will teachers have to throw out years of carefully honed lessons to adapt to this new technology?

    Have other grand infusions of tech into the schools yielded net benefit?

    Is it evil and un-American to ask such questions?

    Only one thing is certain: Apple will profit off of this.

    The tail wags the dog, as usual.

  5. I think the killer university device would be an iPad with a plain vanilla e-ink reader on its flip side. The iPad screen would be great for the bells-and-whistles, the connectivity, interactivity, charts, graphs, videos, etc.; the e-ink side is for when you’ve got to read The Life of Samuel Johnson.

  6. Sure, the big textbook publishers are going to want $15 every year for their titles, but imagine teachers who, over a period of years, write their own textbook with their own ways of presenting things that matches better with the way they teach the content and selling it to the kids each year for $5?

    I think I’ll be shorting Big Textbook Co right now. This opens the doors wide for real competition in the textbook industry.

    • Mark Roulo says:

      Imagine some (talented, credentialed) folks getting together to write pretty good textbooks for things that don’t change very quickly: K-12 math, Newtonian physics, basic chemistry. And giving them away for free.

      Right now a big problem with this is that (a) you can’t find them easily, and (b) you have to print them yourself [which looks cheap and may well kill all the cost savings]

      eBooks with a decent electronic book store mostly solve both of these problems.

      Could prove interesting for high school as a start.

    • Michael E. Lopez says:

      I’m totally with you Rob — this is going to be the end of the textbook industry, which will be a tremendous boon for education in this country.

  7. Ponderosa…”Does anyone know what the environmental costs of iPad manufacture is?”

    I await with interest your inquiry into the costs of *conventional* textbook manufacture, which include transportation of wood pulp or other materials to the paper mill, energy used in converting said materials into paper, transportation of the paper to the printing facility, power consumed in operating the printing presses, transportation of the books to the schools, and ultimate disposal of the textbooks when they are thrown away.

    • Disposal of used books is a lot more “environmentally friendly” than disposal of used electronic equipment – not to mention the environmental cost of the electricity needed in one form or another to even read the ebooks.

      • The piece of electronic equipment may be used to read 50 or 100 different books over the course of its life. If the books are in paper form, each one of them must ultimately be disposed of.

        There are valid reasons to be concerned about the move to electronic textbooks, but environmental concerns are not among them.

        • Environmental concerns about e-book readers cannot be so cavalierly dismissed, when one considers all the toxic components utilized in such readers (e.g., batteries). (Look at all the hullabaloo about breaking the curlicue light bulbs with their trace amounts of mercury, which supposedly need hazmat methods for proper cleanup and disposal.)

          Other concerns about e-books would touch issues of availability and feasibility, especially with regards to poorer communities in developing nations. How are children who go to school in dirt huts going to recharge their e-book readers? Hook it up to a bicycle generator and pedal away for who knows how many hours?

          E-book readers may be an option, but they are but one option, not necessarily superior to all others. The jury is still out on that.

  8. iPads will change the textbook industry the same way it has changed the PC industry… which means, not at all.

    The number of hurdles to mass adoption of iPads in schools is too great –

    1) $500 cost per iPad – who has the money? Districts won’t be able to use textbook money from the state to buy them. Our district has roughly 1400 students in grades 6-12. That’s a grand total of $700,000, not even including the actual textbook costs.

    2) I have a student who is on her 4th cell phone of the school year because she keeps breaking them. Since these are the students’ only texts, they will need to be able to take them home with them. The insurance or replacement costs would be massive… let alone downtime while the broken units get replaced. And that’s not even considering theft.

    3) Our high school network has trouble handling the traffic from three class-size computer labs and roughly 60 teacher laptops. I don’t even want to think what would happen with 400 extra wifi devices or the cost to upgrade and maintain the network.

    4) Textbooks or teacher notes don’t have bugs, downtime, or other technical issues. They take a beating and keep on ticking. Sure, they may be heavy, easily defaced, and “old-school,” but guess what – they do the job just fine.

    This is nothing more than Apple building up unrealistic hype for a niche product. I have yet to see the mass adoption of iPads as portrayed in the commercials… not in hospitals, not in schools, or other industries. The PC still reigns.

    For those who don’t like the standard textbooks and who have made up their own resources, I suggest you look into having your own books made. A local BOCES makes books with plastic bindings for teachers at a pretty good price. If that’s not available, check out Kinko’s, Staples, etc. and see what their costs are.

  9. The main issue with these electronic books is that they will overdue the animation, interaction, and various forms of glitz and hence work to push students even further in the direction of short attention spans rather than thoughtful concentration. There is of course nothing that *forces* the content to function in this way, of course, but the educational zeitgeist suggests this 90% of such content will indeed take the form of sparkly tools.