Apple starts selling interactive iPad textbooks (Update)

Apple starts selling interactive iPad textbooks (AP)
E.O. Wilson, professor emeritus at Harvard, shows his book, "Life on Earth," on an iPad2, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012 in New York. Apple announced iBooks 2 for iPad, featuring iBooks textbooks, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Apple Inc. on Thursday launched its attempt to make the iPad a replacement for a satchel full of textbooks by starting to sell electronic versions of a handful of standard high-school books.

The electronic textbooks, which include "Biology" and "Environmental Science" from Pearson and "Algebra 1" and "Chemistry" from McGraw-Hill, contain videos and other interactive elements.

But it's far from clear that even a company with Apple's clout will be able to reform the primary and high-school textbook market. The printed books are bought by schools, not students, and are reused year after year, which isn't possible with the electronic versions. New books are subject to lengthy state approval processes.

Major textbook publishers have been making electronic versions of their products for years, but until recently, there hasn't been any hardware suitable to display them. PCs are too expensive and cumbersome to be good e-book machines for students. Dedicated e-book readers like the Kindle have small screens and can't display color. IPads and other tablet computers work well, but iPads cost at least $499. Apple didn't reveal any new program to defray the cost of getting the tablet computers into the hands of students.

All this means textbooks have lagged the general adoption of e-books, even when counting college-level works that students buy themselves. Forrester Research said e-books accounted for only 2.8 percent of the $8 billion U.S. textbook market in 2010.

Pearson PLC of Britain and The McGraw-Hill Cos. of New York are two of the three big textbook companies in the U.S. market. The third one, Boston-based Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, also plans to supply books to Apple's store, but none were immediately available.

The new textbooks are legible with a new version of the free iBooks application, which became available Thursday.

The textbooks will cost $15 or less, said Phil Schiller, Apple's head of marketing. He unveiled the books at an event at New York's Guggenheim Museum. Schools will be able to buy the books for its students and issue redemption codes to them, he said.

Albert Greco, a professor of marketing at Fordham University in New York and a former high-school principal, said schools would need to buy iPads for its students if it were to replace printed books.

It wouldn't work to let students who can afford to buy their own iPads use them in class with textbooks they buy themselves, alongside poorer students with printed books.

"The digital divide issue could be very embarrassing. Because if you don't have the iPad, you can't do the quiz, you don't get instant feedback ... that is an invitation for a lawsuit," Greco said. "I would be shocked if any principal or superintendent would let that system go forward."

Greco said hardback high-school textbooks cost an average of about $105, and a freshman might need five of them. However, they last for five years.

That means that even if an iPad were to last for five years in the hands of students, the e-books plus the iPad would cost more than the hardback textbooks.

Apple also released an app for iTunes U, which has been a channel for colleges to release video and audio from lectures, through iTunes. The app will open that channel to K-through-12 schools, and will let teachers present outlines, post notes and communicate with students in other ways.

Greco called the new app "a shot across the bow" of Blackboard Inc., a privately held company that provides similar electronic tools to teachers. It, too, has applications for cellphones and tablets.

Apple also revealed iBook Author, an application for Macs that lets people create electronic textbooks.

According to biographer Walter Isaacson, reforming the textbook market was a pet project of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, even in the last year of his life. At a dinner in early 2011, Jobs told News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch that the paper textbooks could be made obsolete by the iPad. Jobs wanted to circumvent the state certification process for textbook sales by having Apple release textbooks for free on the tablet computer.

Jobs died in October after a long battle with cancer.

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Jan 19, 2012
This year my County issued a free IPad2 to every highschool student in each of the four highschools in the County. http://en.wikiped...arolina)

We pay $50/year for insurance. They collect them at the end of the year and give the same one back to the student next year. They have some e-textbooks on them, but the publishers require the school to own a paper copy of the textbook for each e-book license. Great deal, isn't it? It's really hard to read a textbook on an IPad screen though. To get the text large enough to read, you really have to zoom in so far that the page doesn't fit on the screen, and then you have to slide the page sideways and up and down as you read. Then if there's a description on one page and a diagram or something on the opposite page, you have to page back and forth and scroll up and down and zoom in and out to see everything. Last night we ended up pulling out the paper book in stead.

Jan 19, 2012
Apple needs to design books that are formatted to read on the I-Pad screen. The text should be much larger and they could embed interactive worksheets into them too.

As a parent, I'm skeptical about it right now. There just aren't enough value added applications on the IPad right now to justify the expense. Many homes do not have wi-fi either, so those students have very limited functionality at home, which means that teachers can't assign homework that requires downloadable content. The battery life on the IPad2 is kinda limited as well, which places a limit on how much they can use them during a typical school day.

Since every kid has one, there doesn't seem to be much of a problem with theft yet, but we will see how that plays out over time I guess.

They also do not have any way to block or monitor content, so the students are on the honor system when it comes to porn and such. I kinda expect at some point that some students will get caught trading pictures of themselves.

Jan 19, 2012
Scott McNealy (founder of Sun Microsystems) was a founder of Curriki, developing free and open source text books for schools. Some of their books have been approved by California and other states for high school and college use. Other sources are WikiBooks and CK12. For a player, the Kindle Fire is a much cheaper alternative at $199, more open, supports Flash, and might be a better alternative. The article reads like an Apple press release and totally ignores these other, much less costly alternatives. Many high schools also require a TI84 calculator which at $100 can be replaced by a tablet. For free text books and a $200 price point, the payback is less than 2 years, far better than for the iPad at 5 years (discounts not included).

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