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Books Education Apple Technology

Apple Unveils Software To Reinvent the Textbook 416

Posted by Soulskill
from the appifying-the-printed-word dept.
redletterdave writes "At the Guggenheim Museum in New York, Apple announced on Thursday it would update its iBooks platform to include textbook capabilities and also added a new platform called iBooks Author, which lets anyone easily create and publish their own e-books. Apple's senior VP of marketing, Phil Schiller, introduced iBooks 2, which has a new textbook experience for the iPad. The books themselves display larger images, and searching content is made significantly easier: all users need to do is tap on a word and they are taken straight to an appropriate glossary or index section in the back of the book. Navigating pages and searching is also easy and fluid, and at the end of each chapter is a full review with questions and pictures. If you want the answers to the questions, all you need to do is tap the question to get instant feedback. Apple also launched the iBooks Author app, which lets anyone easily create any kind of textbook and publish it to the iBookstore, and the new iTunes U platform, which helps teachers and students communicate better, and even send each other materials and notes created with iBooks Author. All of the apps are free, and available for any and all students, from K-12 to major universities."
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Apple Unveils Software To Reinvent the Textbook

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  • by bonch (38532) * on Thursday January 19, 2012 @11:37AM (#38748970)

    MacRumors has full live coverage of the event [macrumors.com] with pictures. I couldn't tell if I'm able to just read my damn books on my Mac, though. Hope I don't have to use iBooks Author to do it.

  • Re:Open format? (Score:4, Informative)

    by bonch (38532) * on Thursday January 19, 2012 @11:53AM (#38749202)

    It's ePub [wikipedia.org], the standard format for e-books. In fact, I believe ePub 3 is a subset of HTML5. You can author JavaScript and HTML5 directly for interactivity.

  • Re:Hype (Score:5, Informative)

    by bonch (38532) * on Thursday January 19, 2012 @12:05PM (#38749352)

    The ePub format is cross-platform HTML5. The .ibooks files that this tool exports are ePubs with a mime type of "application/x-ibooks+zip".

  • Re:Innovation. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Alan Shutko (5101) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @12:07PM (#38749380) Homepage

    The innovation is packaging those technologies and making it easy for publishers to use them.

    The new ibooks format looks like a ZIP container containing xhtml, images (including jpeg, png and svg), javascript based widgets (created with Dashcode, similar to OS X widgets). I see h.264 movies in there as well. I haven't found the 3d stuff (don't know if there's any 3d in this one). And it's all in a nice package that you can download once and toss on a device.

    Unlike Sigil, iBooks Author can embed much more multimedia and appears to make it much easier to build documents. Building the capabilities to do flashcards and interactive review sections into the client app so that lots of books can take advantage of it. Before now, publishers could do this sort of thing in a browser over the internet, or they could write their own mobile app that displayed the content, but they had to build a lot of that infrastructure themselves.

    Apple's building on our current technologies and has actually gotten publishers to start using them. I think that's pretty cool.

  • Re:Open format? (Score:4, Informative)

    by bonch (38532) * on Thursday January 19, 2012 @12:20PM (#38749574)

    .ibook is an ePub file with a custom MIME type.

  • by Tom (822) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @12:24PM (#38749662) Homepage Journal

    I'm not really sold on the idea that we need interactive textbooks,

    You didn't study anything complicated, then.

    For all natural sciences, layered diagrams, 3D models that you can turn and watch from more than one perspective, etc. are godsent. Not because they are shiney and "multimedia", but because they convey more information better. Check out anatomy textbooks and tell me the diagrams wouldn't be 100% improved if they supported just layers.

  • Re:Open format? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tom (822) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @12:35PM (#38749830) Homepage Journal

    iBooks 1 uses epub (I just published a book on it, so I know). I've not yet looked at what this new format is, but I've be surprised if it weren't epub as well.

    They're a bit late to this game, Amazon is pretty entrenched with Kindles already in most people's hands,

    Why does everyone with no clue whine on this article that it's about the iPad? Why do you think this is about the iPad? What makes you think that?

    Apple has consistently won markets by thinking bigger than that. They always create nice integrated products, such as the iPod and iTunes - but they have always looked beyond the immediate. The iTunes music store is huge in itself, with or without iPod sales.

    Sure, Apple will move more iPads if this gets big. But if the become a major publisher of textbooks, they gain something far beyond more iPad sales - they profit from the textbooks themselves, even if the students use a Kindle to read them.

  • by s73v3r (963317) <s73v3r@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Thursday January 19, 2012 @12:44PM (#38749976)

    1). It says that the iBooks Author program can export to PDF.

    2). WHY? PDF is an awful format for reading, especially on a device where the orientation can change. PDFs do not reflow text when the layout changes. And you can mark and annotate stuff on most other ebook formats just fine.

  • by jo_ham (604554) <joham999@noSPaM.gmail.com> on Thursday January 19, 2012 @12:44PM (#38749978)

    A closed format like.... ePub.

    Mmmmm.

    Try again.

    Free authoring tools, free app, HTML5-based books...

    Totally the opposite direction to free and available!

  • by larry bagina (561269) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @01:00PM (#38750188) Journal
    Try finding a smart-phone in the US with a calendar app that accepts non-English characters.

    Everybody with an iPhone already found it.

  • by DarkOx (621550) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @01:01PM (#38750214) Journal

    I also think your comparison is a bit unfair. That $400 iPad maybe more expensive than a $30 textbook, but most students above elementary school carry 5-7 textbooks. That brings the costs much closer to inline.

    The trouble is unless Apple is going to get into the education text book market, (they wont) they are going be a distributor. They will have some influence over the price but they won't be setting the price. Next Apple will likely demand their 30% cut. Novels in e-book form seem to be discounted at most 20% off their dead tree equivalent at final retail. So odds are that $30 text will still cost $24 or given a little bit less elastic market than fiction, it might still be closer to $28. So us tax payers will be buying every brat an IPad AND still paying almost as much for text books. There is not savings there.

    The next issue most text books get used between 5 and 10 years, what will license on these e-texts be, my guess is we will get to pay over and over again for each kid, each year.

  • by sdavid (556770) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @01:11PM (#38750366)
    That would alleviate some of my concerns, but from the engaged writeup: "Most importantly of all, any book that you publish must be an exclusive to iBooks." (http://www.engadget.com/2012/01/19/apples-ibooks-author-hands-on/#continued) Not too open.
  • Re:Open format? (Score:5, Informative)

    by nahdude812 (88157) * on Thursday January 19, 2012 @01:43PM (#38750978) Homepage

    From the terms of use:

    (ii) if your Work is provided for a fee (including as part of any subscription-based product or service), you may only distribute the Work through Apple and such distribution is subject to the following limitations and conditions: (a) you will be required to enter into a separate written agreement with Apple (or an Apple affiliate or subsidiary) before any commercial distribution of your Work may take place; and (b) Apple may determine for any reason and in its sole discretion not to select your Work for distribution.

    So even though it's a (horribly broken) form of ePub, it doesn't matter, you're not allowed to sell it to anyone without an iDevice, only if Apple chooses to let you, and you get to pay Apple for this privilege privilege.

    No. Thanks.

  • Re:Hype (Score:2, Informative)

    by coinreturn (617535) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @01:52PM (#38751172)

    No, the point is that the iPod didn't reinvent the market, they took what Creative had done, ripped it off and made it slightly smaller with a wheel on the front. That's not reinvention, that's stealing somebody elses work and trying to claim ownership of it. Which is why Apple got its ass handed to it when they got sued.

    Put down your anti-Apple crack pipe. The iPod reinvented the market because it came with iTunes - an integrated environment for content. Also, if Apple had "its ass handed to it when the got sued" why are they still crushing everyone in sales?

  • by DancesWithBlowTorch (809750) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @02:38PM (#38751898)
    I just downloaded the "iBook Author" app. It's neat. But it has no cabability to enter maths. Until Apple adds LaTeX support, this is not going to fly in maths and physics at the university level. I do research in applied mathematics for a living. In the texts I write, over 50% of the page space is covered with formulae. That's just the way maths works. I also need special characters (various binary operators, calligraphic, fraktur and blackboard bold symbols, ...), not just Greek letters and sum symbols. There's another catch, which also applies to other fields, not just my personal niche: It's nice that I can add 3D models, videos and all. But creating these kinds of objects takes a lot of time. Time that expert authors don't have. It will be interesting to see how this works out in schools, but I'm not holding my breath regarding graduate academic writing.
  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @04:01PM (#38752872) Journal

    In fact, any modern smartphone will do - including Android, WP7 etc.

  • Re:Open format? (Score:4, Informative)

    by nahdude812 (88157) * on Thursday January 19, 2012 @04:47PM (#38753550) Homepage

    It claims support for it, and it does not have problems with the ePub3 test books from http://azardi.infogridpacific.com/html/resources.html [infogridpacific.com] . I've looked in the new files. They're full of stuff like <object type="application/x-ibooks+shape" id="textShape-2" data-original-id="textShape-90"> and css with -ibook- prefixes.

    Seriously, you've replied to me in several spots aggressively defending Apple's lock-in. Have YOU tried this in different readers? Do YOU know of a non-Apple reader which can display Apple's new book format cleanly? Maybe Apple is just really ahead of the curve in terms of formatting while maintaining compliance with the standard. But the proprietary extensions loaded in these books suggest otherwise. It's all very Microsoftish, embrace and extend.

    It's all moot anyway, Apple's TOS says you can't sell a book created for iBooks through anyone but them, and only if they choose to let you (i.e. they approve of your content), and it can't cost $15 or more (that last one I actually think is not too shabby for the vast majority of cases). They can't lock you to sell only on their platform by technical means like they do with iOS apps (where you have to pretty much independently develop multiple times if you want to target multiple platforms), so they'll just produce lock-in via a licensing channel.

    At least the content is accessible, I should be grateful that it's not completely locked away. Future historians will be able to access the contents of these files when Apple's licensing servers have died. Except when they're DRM encrypted, then the future is SOL.

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @05:13PM (#38754058) Homepage
    The format is apparently [techcrunch.com] epub 3 with some proprietary extensions. Epub 3 is basically html bundled up in a zip file, and it handles math using mathml. There are various good tools available for converting latex math into mathml. Here is some mathml that I generated by using open-source software to convert latex $x^2$ into mathml:

    <p><math xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML"> <msup><mi>x</mi><mn>2</mn></msup></math></p>

    Does the authoring app give you a way to cut and paste this into your book? If so, is Apple's ibook reading software capable of rendering the book correctly? They say they already have some math and physics textbooks for sale in the ibook store, but I don't know whether they're done using mathml or some kludgy workaround like bitmapped images (which is what you have to do in epub 2).

  • by jeremyp (130771) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @05:17PM (#38754118) Homepage Journal

    There's an iPad app called Notes Plus that lets you hand write notes (it works best with a stylus) and then will do hand writing recognition. I use it to take notes in all my meetings.

  • by pwn3d (1366003) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @05:36PM (#38754426)
    As far as I can tell looking at the information provided by Apple, there's no legal requirement that free iBooks _must_ be distributed solely through the iTunes store. You can export in the native .iba format to the desktop or email the same file to anyone, which can then be loaded onto any iPad for viewing. Of course, the same can be done with a .pdf of the same work. You're only tied to the iTunes store if you want to make a buck off your book. If you have specifics indicating differently, please provide them.

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