From eBooks to iBooks: Apple Repositions Itself in the Education Space

Dr. Suzanne Kissel provides thought leadership to a number of higher education institutions in the Teaching & Learning areas. She has been in instrumental in developing Academic Technology Strategies for colleges and universities throughout the United States, and she provides valued leadership in program development, academic assessment, and strategic planning. Suzanne joins the Learning Through Play & Technology blog with her first post here on Apple’s announcements of the day regarding the education market.

Upon hearing the word eBook, most students and faculty members imagine lines of text with an intermittent picture or two.  Purchase models for these books vary, with some available for lease.  Despite a decent amount of hype in 2011, eBooks had what can best be described as a very uneven reception in pilot programs across the United States.

In a much anticipated announcement, Apple positioned itself to make the eBook story a very different one in 2012.

Speaking from the Guggenheim Museum, Apple representatives announced two new applications.  The updated version of Apple’s popular iBook application, iBooks2 is free and available from the app store beginning today.  The other of the two applications, iBooks Author, allows any interested party to easily create interesting, interactive iPad lessons.  Rather than simply putting a book on the screen, iBooks Author allows authors and publishers to harness the multimedia advantages of the tablet to transform text into experience.  For instance, learners can electronically “mark up” their iPad books and keep those annotations, along with the books, after the conclusion of the course.

In addition to the two applications, Apple announced that it was expanding iTunesU beyond the realm of higher education to reach into elementary and high schools.

Apple iPad with iTunesU – Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/REUTERS

To support this initiative, Apple has formed partnerships with Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  These three publishers are responsible for 90 percent of the textbooks used with courses taught in the U.S.  In addition, DK. Publishing, which offers vividly colored books for younger readers is also joining the team.

The promise of this announcement is that it could pave the way for the release of highly customized, interactive, and inexpensive textbooks.  According to Phil Schiller, Apple’s marketing chief, the new, interactive iPad books would cost $14.99.  Whether the low cost of the textbooks could outweigh the comparatively high cost of the iPad itself (beginning at $499) remains to be seen.  Regardless, the announcement certainly pulls the eBook to the foremost of the new advances promising to change the face of education.

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Filed under eBooks, education, education course content, education technology, iBooks, technology

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