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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 Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 19, 2012 @12:36PM (#38748964)

    It was a textbook example of a product launch.

    • by cayenne8 (626475) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @01:04PM (#38749332) Homepage Journal
      While this all sounds good...I dunno if it would have helped me back in school, or even now (although I would try it).

      I found back in HS and college...that with dead tree books...I often would do like I did on my notes in a separate note book....I'd scribble notes, and make doodles in the margins.

      I found that by doing this...when taking tests, I could close my eyes, and mentally turn the pages of my notes and even my books and 'see' the pages in my head and find the answers.

      Even today...while search and all is great with digital media, I find that to actually quickly remember and be able to recall importing things I'm reading...the act of my physically writing down quotes and notes, seems to chisel it in my brain for quick recall later. Just reading and searching on a screen doesn't seem to do it for me as well.

      Maybe it is just me tho....

      • by LandDolphin (1202876) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @01:08PM (#38749398)
        You are not alone. People learn and recall information in different ways. That's why there isn't a single solution. A teacher using this technology needs to also require note taking and assignments outside of the iPad-Textbook system to reach everyone.
        • by DancesWithBlowTorch (809750) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @03:38PM (#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.
          • 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.

            Your thinking seems antiquated, from many decades past. Textbooks are no longer just text with graphics so simple that the typical author could manage it. Art, graphics and accompanying software often comes from others. I was once part of a team that did the software accompanying a chemistry textbook, we also did some of the videos demonstrating various concepts. Our work would have fit in quite well with this Apple initiative.

          • by bcrowell (177657) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @06:13PM (#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 ColdWetDog (752185) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @01:19PM (#38749568) Homepage

        You actually read your textbooks? And you admit that?

        I'll bet you even stoop so low as to read instruction manuals.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by WilyCoder (736280)

          Hurray for anti-intellectualism!

          • 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.
            • 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 jc42 (318812) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @01:29PM (#38749728) Homepage Journal

        While this all sounds good...I dunno if it would have helped me back in school, or even now (although I would try it). I found back in HS and college...that with dead tree books...I often would do like I did on my notes in a separate note book....I'd scribble notes, and make doodles in the margins.

        This is a major problem in other areas beside schools. For example, I've seen a few attempts to provide musicians in bands and orchestras with computerized displays on their stands. This also sounds good at first, and it does give them very quick access to all the music in the system's library. But in the first rehearsal with the electronic gadgets, the musicians quickly discover that they have no practical way to scribble notes on the music. There is no second rehearsal with the electronics; the musicians simply state that they've gone back to paper and won't discuss the topic any more.

        Similarly, I've had a "smart phone" since the late 1990s (not unusual for a software developer), and I've tried out all their calendar apps. I continue to buy a new paper pocket calendar every year. Using the phones' input methods are just too clumsy, and they never allow a lot of the things that I scribble on the paper. Of course, this is partly because in last year's pocket calendar, I find entries written in Cyrillic, Hebrew and Chinese characters. You'd think the calendar makers would like to sell to Serbian, Israeli, and Chinese customers, so that shouldn't be a problem, right? Try finding a smart-phone in the US with a calendar app that accepts non-English characters. Even people who speak Spanish or French complain about this.

        Paper still has one strong advantage: You can scribble anything you like on it, and it holds the image until you (laboriously ;-) erase it. The tablet makers will have to match this capability if they're serious about replacing paper in a lot of environments.

        Actually, I've seen, and occasionally used, some prototype software that let users scribble random junk on a "document". Such things existed back in the 1990s. But they don't seem to be available on commercial products. Or rather, they are available, but the apps only let you scribble on their own "documents", not on the documents used by other apps. If I can't scribble on, say, a PDF or PNG or SVG music score, but only on the scribble app's blank pages, it isn't of much use to me when I'm working on a piece of music.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by larry bagina (561269)
          Try finding a smart-phone in the US with a calendar app that accepts non-English characters.

          Everybody with an iPhone already found it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          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.

  • by bonch (38532) * on Thursday January 19, 2012 @12:37PM (#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.

    • From TFA, it sounds like iBooks will be upgraded with textbook capabilities, and iBooks Author will allow you to publish yourself.

  • Hype (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timeOday (582209) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @12:41PM (#38749022)
    "Reinvent" is a big word. But the most significant thing I see here is that the tools - including and especially the content development tools - are free (as in beer). But the next question is, what iBook tools will be available on other platforms?
    • by Altus (1034)

      The tools being available on other platforms doesn't interest me and you won't see Apple go out of their way to build authoring tools on other platforms. To expect them to do so, especially for a free tool, is just crazy. What you should be asking is if the format is open so that books authored on this platform can be read on others and people could make their own tools to create the books on other platforms if they wanted too.

      • by jo_ham (604554)

        And it is. iBooks uses ePub, which is HTML5.

        It's a zip file with the files inside it.

    • Apple reinvents reinvention!
  • Open format? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gmuslera (3436) * on Thursday January 19, 2012 @12:45PM (#38749086) Homepage Journal
    If is closed, propietary format then no matter if the app to use them in a specific hardware device is free. Those books (or us) don't have a future.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nahdude812 (88157) *

      It's not like we need another freaking proprietary book format. Maybe their new format has support for things existing formats don't, but books created in this software should be exportable to other open book formats such as ePub. They're not, this is just Apple trying to control a new market and claim a 43% markup on all digital book sales.

      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. It

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

        by Tom (822) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @01:35PM (#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.

        • 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 bonch (38532) *

            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.

            Does you the reader you try support ePub 3? Apple's tool is likely exporting ePub 3, basically just a form of HTML5.

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

              by nahdude812 (88157) * on Thursday January 19, 2012 @05:47PM (#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 killfixx (148785) *

            +1 Informative!! I wish I had mod-points. It may be ePub, but perverted to keep it locked to Apple.

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

          by nahdude812 (88157) * on Thursday January 19, 2012 @02:43PM (#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.

      • by jo_ham (604554)

        What are you smoking? The iBooks format *already is ePub* - why would you need to "export" to it?

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

      by bonch (38532) * on Thursday January 19, 2012 @12:53PM (#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.

      • epub is open but the DRM used in them may not be.
      • No so fast. I've downloaded iBooks Author, and none of the various save, export or publish commands seems to give an ePub file. I don't know enough about ebook formats to investigate further, so I'll leave it to others to do that.

        iBooks were epub format I think, and do iBooks 2 will certainly still support that. But it MIGHT BE a proprietary format for text books.

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

          by bonch (38532) * on Thursday January 19, 2012 @01:20PM (#38749574)

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

          • Yes you're right. I was seeing a binary file, and I'd forgotten that epub is zipped up. I unzipped it, and the contents are epub contents.

        • by iluvcapra (782887)

          iBooks are ePubs but it's hard to see how these demonstrated books aren't supersets of ePub. I'm not sure ePub supports multiple-choice quizzes, Keynote animations or embedding OS X dashboard widgets (they are just javascript, but the dependencies might not align).

      • by nahdude812 (88157) *

        I don't see any mention of that on Apple's site that it's ePub. Maybe I missed it, can you give me a link that confirms this?

        From what others have been saying, you can export to only one of 3 formats, their proprietary format, PDF (non-interactive, fixed page format, basically not an ebook format at all), and plain text.

    • iOS Apps are a closed format. Doesn't seem to have held them back.

    • Yeah, this needs to be non-drm, and an open format. Probably epub 3

    • I have read many stories about how Apple has been trying to get local and state governments to buy iPads (at one time the Macbooks) and use them in schools. These new tools simply provide more leverage.

      See, Apple knows where the real money is, government. With good marketing, which Apple is king of, you can bet they will get your tax dollars in large amounts to "fix education" and any attempts to deny entry will be branded as racist or worse because they will always point to some little kid and guilt you.

      Ju

      • by nahdude812 (88157) *

        Unfortunately this is a terrible time to be trying to make money off the primary education market (where government money is). Secondary education is great because kids are buying their own equipment, usually financed by their parents, and lots and lots of kids are going to college who have no business doing so. But that's typically private money, not government money.

        In primary education, budgets are being cut left and right. Maybe some upper class schools will be providing iPads for their students, or

  • by Reverand Dave (1959652) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @12:48PM (#38749134)
    I would really hate to see textbooks and other such informational sources be controlled through the iTunes market place. Maybe if the documents were in a DRM free format and available across different platforms but apple is not known for playing nice and sharing its toys to the benefit of anyone but its self.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 19, 2012 @01:03PM (#38749310)

      As opposed to the current system which is...a complete scam? Where you have to pay $150 for a new edition of a book that differs from the previous version by 2%?

    • I've been starting a textbook project myself recently (it's a lot more work than I first anticipated to flesh out the material and formatting, even with latex, and I haven't even started with the graphic design) so this is quite interesting to me. I saw that ibooks author will export to pdf, my biggest question is: will this be compatible with print-on-demand services? Surely some folks are still going to want dead tree versions, and some topics don't need lots of media interaction. Apple would do very well
  • by CaptBubba (696284) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @12:55PM (#38749222)

    I'm not really sold on the idea that we need interactive textbooks, I've never had a textbook that wasn't very sufficiently searchable using the contents and index, and I don't see how you can keep a straight face and make the argument that a $400+ iPad is more durable than a $30 textbook, especially in a school environment where some textbooks can last for a decade or more.

    Apple may want the iPad to be the standard with all their little monopolistic heart, but I just don't see it happening anywhere but in random charter or magnet schools who want to show everyone how hip they are with the new technology.

    • by Tom (822) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @01:24PM (#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.

    • While this may be true, I don't know that Apple is where the blame needs to be placed. The sheer numbers of students, teachers , and school districts using iPads formally or informally practically begs Apple to take advantage of the situation. If this had been a use case that Apple had expected to be so huge in the first place, I think we would have seen these kinds of tools much earlier. The fact that it's taken this long for Apple to come out with Textbook specific apps makes me think that their sudden

      • by DarkOx (621550) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @02:01PM (#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.

    • I'm not really sold on the idea that we need interactive textbooks, I've never had a textbook that wasn't very sufficiently searchable using the contents and index

      I agree, if you only want the one book / document. If you only need to find your way around one book, then I am unconvinced of the value here, since, unless it is a substantial tome, carrying it with you is not a huge chore.

      However, I tend to refer to any number of books when writing, and having them all to hand when I want them — in

    • What you're missing is that the iPad weighs just over a pound and is the size of a couple dozen sheets of paper...and it can hold a ton of books.

      No, literally.

      Figure a pound per paper book (they're generally heavier, much heavier in the case of hardcovers) and 10 Mbytes per ebook (generally smaller, unless they're multimedia-rich), and 2,000 paper books would weigh a ton while 2,000 ebooks would use 20 Gbytes. iPads come in 16, 32, and 64 Gbyte models.

      Tell me you don't get excited at the thought of carrying

  • The iPad is the wrong platform for this. Something eink based or possibly Pixel Qi (if you wanted color and animation/video) based would be better.

    • by b0bby (201198)

      I don't know; magazines are certainly nice on the iPad (try the New Yorker, it's even better than the print version IMHO). The multimedia aspects of an e-textbook would be great on an ipad.

    • The iPad is the wrong platform for this

      I'd have thought that it would depend.

      I would much prefer an eInk screen for readability, since the backlit screen of my iPad causes my eyes to feel strained after prolonged reading. However, I also like to mark up and annotate my documents (be they articles, texts or otherwise), and, of all the devices I have tried so far, the iPad offers the best experience for this. I've studied all of my masters degree so far without printing a single page, using my iPad for

    • by s73v3r (963317)

      If it was solely text, then maybe you'd be right. But adding in images, video, and other interactive content, that means that e-ink is out. Maybe Pixel Qi, but those screens haven't really taken off yet.

  • by sdavid (556770) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @01:03PM (#38749312)
    As a university professor and a mac user, I'm the obvious target for software like this, and in many respects it looks very attractive. However, I can't, in good conscience, force my students onto a particular platform, and that's what using this for course materials would do. I suppose it would be good if the university required all students to buy and iPad (and that's probably Apple's goal here), but without that it's useless. Proprietary formats like iBooks or the Kindle are out, and I'll continue to distribute materials to my students as pdf files, despite the limitations of that format.
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @01:04PM (#38749326) Homepage Journal

    Will make it far easier to manipulate and censor the past, and thus control the future. E-books should be a convenient option to complement existing dead tree versions, not replace them.

  • Libre office with the "writer2epub" extension does the exact same thing, except for loading it on the sellers website.

    Now if they made it export to ANY ebook format, then I'll take more notice.

  • Perhaps it is just me, but I'd far prefer that my digital documents were in PDF than in ePub. I'm coming to the end of a two year masters degree, where all materials were electronic; lectures were podcasts, and all the reading is delivered by download.

    Whatever format the literature came in, though — and no matter where else I sourced my reading — my first step was (and is) to convert the document to PDF, since I find these easiest to manipulate across platform. With a PDF, I can annotate and

  • by HockeyPuck (141947) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @01:22PM (#38749624)

    Publishers and authors of textbooks hate used books because they don't get any additional revenue. Which is why you'll see your standard freshman class books change every other year. How does Calc 101 change every year? The author changes one example replacing X with Y, and then can rev the book and get another $45 in revenue.

    With an eBook with DRM, they'll make it so while the book might not cost $45, every student will be forced to buy it 'new' every year.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Neil_Brown (1568845)

      With an eBook with DRM, they'll make it so while the book might not cost $45, every student will be forced to buy it 'new' every year.

      Or else you could pay once, and always have the latest version on release, since the incremental costs are much lower in redistributing an updated electronic copy than shipping updated editions of physical books.

      I'd certainly be willing to pay more up front if I could have each updated version as it became available, perhaps a small "upgrade" fee for major revisions, j

  • by guttentag (313541) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @01:27PM (#38749704) Journal
    I've been looking for a good way to create ePub files for my iPad for some time now. I use a number of different reference materials I've created for myself and others in environments where you're simply not going to have Internet access, and the iPad has been an ideal tool for this. The iBooks Author app [apple.com] is free, looks well-polished (like Pages and Keynote) and seems interesting with its promises of easily-implemented interactivity. I'm a little concerned about how the HTML widgets will be used... the idea of having content in a book that's always up to date is intriguing... but if you are somewhere you don't have Internet access will it display the last version seen or a 404 Not Found error message?

    The app is available now on the Mac App Store, but it's worth noting that it's only available for the Mac and only runs on OS X Lion.
  • Regardless of how well it does in the general education realm, this will be a hit with all those professions that require continuing education credits to maintain your license. My spouse already has to order CD's/DVD's of medical education material from such publishers and many times they will give you an iPad if your order is over $1000. I can see this being a big hit since tablets (iPads) have a huge install base now (30+ million last year, projected 48+ million this year).
  • by spopepro (1302967) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @02:13PM (#38750390)

    While having slick creation tools is a cool thing, this won't end up working for public K-12 schools, at least in California. There's this thing called the Williams Case [ca.gov] which requires all schools to have one copy of a textbook for each student in a class. Sure, the case was decided before digital textbooks were a possibility, but this has caused significant problems already with digital textbooks. Schwarzenegger tried with the digital textbook initiative to get things started, and there are even free, CC licensed, editable books out there already [ck12.org] (disclaimer: I am an author for CK12). Nobody is using them because of the problems surrounding Williams compliance.

    So while tools are nice, the problem is infrastructure and law. Which are, unfortunately, most of the problems those of us in education face when trying to make things better.

  • by Gavin Scott (15916) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @02:20PM (#38750546)

    "You're gonna need a bigger boat."

    Or at least I hope the iPad 3 comes in a 256GB version, because the first 51 pages of "Life on Earth" weigh in at about 1GB. A fully interactive AND full-length textbook at 19MB/page is going to end up being something like 16GB per book. And the authoring costs for something like this produced through a traditional author/publisher process are going to make the things cost way more than a traditional textbook to produce, so will publishers really be on board to charge people less than the typical $120 or so that they want for the much simpler dead-tree edition?

    But this technology looks like it holds great hope for community developed collaborative works, though it's not clear if there's a mechanism for collaboration, or whether the sort of people who would be involved in such a collaboration are going to be willing to buy into a proprietary platform-locked technology. Hopefully Apple's efforts will at least inspire the community to come up with similar capabilities.

    G.

  • by kodiaktau (2351664) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @02:25PM (#38750648) Journal

    The article from Ars Technica [arstechnica.com] on this subject brings an interesting view point on the 'simplicity' of the tool set. This is all great and wonderful, but I suspect it will end up like other 'easy' technologies in primary and secondary eduction. Companies will think there is a simple path, educators will be dumped into the middle of it and the result will be classrooms of poorly implemented technology. Worse yet will be states that create new focus groups to identify the curriculum needed in the class room and schools will be forced to purchase technology they cannot use.

    Educators need open source material that allows them to quickly mix-and-match to meet their teaching needs and the needs of the children. Bringing a new technology to bear can only go so far if the material available to them is still sub-par from an industry publisher. Besides, with 'approved' material being mostly copyrighted, the educators and schools will still have to pay high prices to access the information.

    Making it easy to mash-up material is not going to make it more accessible and won't help improve the ability to teach and learn.

  • 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]

  • by sl149q (1537343) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @04:44PM (#38752660)

    From: http://9to5mac.com/2012/01/19/apples-textbook-announcement-later-today-new-iosmac-software-rumored/ [9to5mac.com]

    In fact Jobs had his sights set on textbooks as the next business he wanted to transform. He believed it was an $8 billion a year industry ripe for digital destruction. He was also struck by the fact that many schools, for security reasons, don’t have lockers, so kids have to lug a heavy backpack around. “The iPad would solve that,” he said. His idea was to hire great textbook writers to create digital versions, and make them a feature of the iPad. In addition, he held meetings with the major publishers, such as Pearson Education, about partnering with Apple. “The process by which states certify textbooks is corrupt,” he said. “But if we can make the textbooks free, and they come with the iPad, then they don’t have to be certified. The crappy economy at the state level will last for a decade, and we can give them an opportunity to circumvent that whole process and save money.”

    The problem at the local school level is the corrupt process for certification. Jobs viewed this as a way around that. Simply give the books away as part of the iPad.

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