The first is iBooks 2 for iPad, which allows for digital textbooks to add interactive features, such as videos and 3D images. The books also will support note-taking, flash cards and highlighting. And the digital versions will make it easier to keep textbooks up to date. The initial push will be in high school textbooks, though books for all levels are expected over time.
All Things Digital’s Peter Kafka explains how the digital books, priced at $14.99, will make money for publishers used to charging $75 for a hardbound copy. It’s by selling to individual students, rather than high schools, which use them for five years or more. Kafka also raised questions when publishers spoke of $14.99 as “pilot pricing,” while Apple’s Eddy Cue nixed the idea that the prices might rise.
Apple has lined up Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for iBooks 2, three publishing companies that make up 90 percent of the U.S. market. Smaller publishers DK, the EO Wilson Biodiversity Foundation and others will join them.
The Verge did a hands-on with iBooks 2, downloading the biology text “Life on Earth.” It worries that the file size of the seven books available, each 750MB to nearly 3GB, could take up most of the storage space on the 16GB iPad if the user had multiple books on it.
It also tried out iAuthor, the subject of the GarageBand rumors, a tool to help people create their own books for iPad. They can drag and drop in text, add the same interactive features as iBooks 2, then publish their creations. The Verge notes that the software doesn’t require the author to be a subject-matter expert, though.
Apple also has added features to its iTunes U program, which has been used by more than 1,000 colleges and universities. It’s designed to be an educational hub for teachers and students, allowing them to manage all their classes in one place. It allows teachers to create their own online courses, including their own e-textbooks and video.
All three applications will be free.
The Los Angeles Times pointed out that at the announcement, Apple did not talk about any programs to get iPads into the hands of students at a discount. And USA Today raised questions about the number of titles available. It also quoted market research firm NPD analyst Ross Rubin’s tweet:
Much as with other printed content, textbook publishers will have to justify investment to add all this multimedia in Apple textbooks.