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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 Lumpy (12016) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @01:25PM (#38749678) Homepage

    I love how the iPad haters sound just like the Republicans. Make up things to reinforce their point of view.

    The ipad does not have a very small viewing angle, get over that blatent lie. yes it's a shiny surface, so is most laptops and other color e-readers. where it has a REAL failure is you can not read on one in direct sunlight. this is because of a poor choice of LCD. A trans reflective LCD solves this. MY Fujitsu tablet has one and the screen is better outside (and still shiny) Blocky low res?? have you ever touched an ipad?

    the ipad is a AWESOME device or textbooks, reading about dinosaurs and having animations or being able to have interactive parts is incredibly cool. Every classroom I see them using the ipad the kids are enthralled and are learning at a far faster rate. Yes there are schools with them in the classrooms now, My company installed 2900 of them to a regular old school district last year. The teacher can broadcast to the proejctor or 55" lcd in the room via a apple TV and airplay so the kids can all see what she is doing or talking about. They are wonderful devices for this.

    Finally test taking ON the ipad rocks. and they are durable as hell in the right case. I watched a 6 year old ADHD brat throw one to the ground and jump up and down on it. On the SCREEN, not the back. no damage in that special case they bought for the kids ipads to go into.

    The problem is people are making up reasons to NOT use them simply because they are incapable of reasoning why they do work. It's the grumpy old man syndrome and you have it pretty bad.

    The kindle is a failure at text books for 2 reasons. 1 - too damn small. Sorry but only the Kindle DX is big enough for textbooks, and those are as much as an ipad. 2 - no software for education, no interactive books, no way to show it's screen on a larger screen for sharing. Kindle = fail in K-12.

  • Re:Hype (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @01:43PM (#38749970)

    The epub format (which iBooks uses, I'm not sure about iBooks2, we'll have to see) is HTML5.

    Well, ePub 2, which most existing ePub readers (including iBooks) use has content that is XHTML1.1 (or Daisy Talking Book, but no one actually uses that.)

    ePub 3, which iBooks 2 presumably uses, has content in the XHTML syntax of HTML5.

    And trust me, you don't want PDF for e-books.

    I have plenty of PDF ebooks. In general, they are better than the ePub ones for technical books (they'd be worse for novels), though the best ePubs (from PragProg) are good enough that it depends where I'm reading them (desktop, I prefer PDF, iPhone or Nook Color, I prefer ePub; at the size of the iPad, I'd probably be back to PDF.)

    Part of the reason that PDF is generally better is that most ebooks are made by publishers that also do print and have lots of experience with it: and PDF, while you can add a lot to it that isn't in print, lets you apply everything you do in print seemlessly (and most print toolchains produce PDF with no additional effort.)

  • by DavidinAla (639952) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @01:45PM (#38750000)
    I don't see what he's saying as anti-intellectualism. I read constantly and soaked up information like a sponge, but I didn't read my textbooks. They were dumbed down and fairly useless. The fact that they were written on such a low level made me feel that they were patronizing me. I learned almost all of what I wanted and needed to know elsewhere.
  • Re:Open format? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nahdude812 (88157) * on Thursday January 19, 2012 @02:06PM (#38750306) Homepage

    It's about iPad because only iPad and iPhone can read the ibook format.

    I downloaded iBooks Author and published a book to experiment with. I chose one of their templates, picking the one which seemed to have the fewest by way of zany formatting or artwork.

    Although the file produced has a ".ibooks" extension, it looks like under the hood this is ePub at the heart, but with a pile of proprietary extensions on top. I renamed my published file to have an .epub extension, and loaded it up in my ebook reader. The text is readable, but the formatting is all gone. There are image assets floating around occupying space where text should be, but they were background images in the ibooks version, while here they're interfering with text flow. I'm guessing these images are responsible for the 1mb file size for a 3 page book too.

    So the format may be ePub, and although the content isn't completely locked away, I might as well have published a .txt file, at least then it wouldn't be littered with garbage images. If this is an attempt to comply with existing book readers (in the spirit of the open format), it's at best a token attempt. This looks like it would be a great editor, if it was useful outside of the Apple iMpire.

  • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @02:26PM (#38750666)

    This should save Texas a lot of time next time they want to rewrite school text books in the interest of religion.

    Censorship - Now there's and App for that!

    http://www.eschoolnews.com/2011/09/14/news-release-district-deploys-1300-ipad-alternatives-to-assure-ayp/ [eschoolnews.com]

  • entrenched? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SuperBanana (662181) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @03:11PM (#38751484)

    They're a bit late to this game, Amazon is pretty entrenched with Kindles already in most people's hands, and at prices which are far more approachable than iPads.

    What's entrenched: Apple, with millions of iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads in the hands of teenagers and college students.

  • Re:Hype (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @04:20PM (#38752384) Homepage

    >>Personally, I would prefer DRM-free PDFs or interactive and cross platform HTML 5 "books" that didn't mandate a platform.

    >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".

    This [techcrunch.com] link says:

    Books are not technically in the EPUB format, but they borrow from it (likely EPUB 3). Certain interactive elements of the books require the files to be done in the slightly different iBooks format, Apple says.

    This leaves the situation very unclear.

    I assume there is DRM. DRM is not part of the epub spec, but can be added on top. So the first question on my mind would be whether a book in this format bought from Apple will be DRM-unlockable on non-Apple readers.

    The next issue is whether or not these added "interactive elements" are proprietary, and whether they break compatibility with readers that implement the straight epub 3 standard.

    And finally, there is the question of how they're going to handle epub 3 features that are not yet implemented in any readers, including Apple's. TFA says that the initial lineup of books, which are supposed to be available already today, will include math and physics textbooks. Epub 3 has mathml, but no reader, including any of Apple's, implements this yet. So will Apple push out a software update to iPads that will add mathml support? It would be interesting if a slashdotter who owns an iPad could buy one of these books and report back on how the math is done and whether it renders properly on an iPad.

    What is potentially a little sinister here is that Apple, which formerly had hitched its wagon to the open epub standard, could now be heading down the proprietary road taken by amazon. Amazon has been trying to negotiate exclusive deals with publishers to sell e-books; obviously their dream is to achieve lock-in, so that their customers become their captives. Barnes and Noble is responding by refusing to sell paper books by publishers, such as DC Comics, who won't let them sell the electronic version. If apple starts to emulate their behavior, then we're going to have a really nasty situation, where you'd have to own one handheld reader in order to read Harry Potter, and a different company's reader for Sue Grafton.

  • by mcrbids (148650) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @04:48PM (#38752702) Journal

    This is *precisely* what I've seen as a father of 6 (yes, SIX) homeschooled children. Normal K12 textbooks are so simply written that they are agonizing to study from. I've generally had far better results simply buying the collegiate "101" subject introductions and having my 14 year old (ish) kids study from that.

    Strangely, textbooks seem to get *better* as you move away from the mainstream K-12 books: remedial textbooks are often better when a student is having trouble with a subject, because their focus is on explaining the basic concepts rather than including overviews of minutiae, and college textbooks are better at the other end because they are intended to be actually comprehensive rather than provide summaries with too little information to be useful.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 19, 2012 @05:54PM (#38753682)

    For example, I've seen a few attempts to provide musicians in bands and orchestras with computerized displays on their stands.

    I would actually argue the opposite, I have a band that does this and wouldn't change back. However it is implemented correctly, unlike your example.

    IPad for music, bluetooth foot pedal to change pages.
    You can edit the pdf files with scribbles and text. It is a little clunky to start, but works. However it is far superior that I can manage and markup my songs at home on the computer and they are saved forever and displayed on the iPad just like at home. No worrying that notes are lost or not keep. It's also integrating with a band scheduling mechanism for distribution of songs and music sheets.

    http://get.planningcenteronline.com/

  • by bennomatic (691188) on Friday January 20, 2012 @02:06AM (#38758336) Homepage
    Well, one of the things it does support is embedding HTML5 widgets, which implies that Canvas is supported. I know it's not LaTex, but I'm sure there's some library for converting your formulae based on that system (or others) into Canvas.

    I did note during the presentation that they showed an Algebra 1 book multiple times, and maybe this is why they don't have anything higher. Presumably, however, if they don't already support mathematical equations natively right now, either there's an easy way to do it, or it'll be supported in version 1.01. Suggesting that they'd make this big a deal about it and ignore everything above Trig (I figure you need the fancy stuff once you start doing integrals, right? So that's be Calc A and above) is a little silly.

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