Yesterday, Apple released a new version of iBooks which foremost adds the feature of downloadable textbooks. While it wasn’t much of a surprise, it may be the start of a fresh new age for education.
Initially, the new textbooks may seem like any other textbook store on the iPad — like Inkling — but there are some major differences that I’m confident will set it apart. And Apple will insure they’re at the top.
Really, that’s one big difference in itself. Apple has become a name that’s easily adoptable and widely trusted, especially in schools (that can afford it, at least). It’s no doubt that if anyone could lead an education evolution to digital textbooks, they would be it. And I’m not saying they can’t be overtaken, but right now, competitors are few and far between.
Also something to keep in mind is the fact that it may actually be more cost-efficient to buy iPads for a school rather than physical textbooks. While textbooks can cost hundreds of dollars a piece and be highly abused by students, iPads are able to last for longer periods of time, especially if it’s the only thing in a backpack, and if they’re treated right. Along with this, iBooks textbooks are only $15 (at the moment) and can be updated to new editions, so if a school were to buy a collection of iPads for their students and use them year after year, the only cost would be initially.
However, $500 a piece for an iPad isn’t necessarily affordable for either K-12 students or school districts, and buying old, discounted iPads may not be ideal for reusability. I believe Apple still needs to bump down the cost or offer an extreme education discount. A route which Kindle takes currently in which they recieve no income from the device but from the content may be a good place for Apple to go if they want to get iPads in to more than just wealthy schools.
The last thing to consider is that Apple built a really great way to create these textbooks on the Mac, iBooks Author. iBooks Author is very similar to Apple’s iWork suite, and is free for anyone to use. This means that anyone can create their own textbooks extremely easily and share or sell them. And believe me, they’re intent on creating the best experience for both the authors and readers, as they added abilities for video, sound, animations, and even interactive activities, quizzes, and reviews. Authors can even set up predefined study cards for a chapter, so studying and retaining is a breeze for the reader, who can also create their own with the built-in highlighting tool.
Overall, I think Apple’s taking a great step to make learning more enjoyable and grasp the attention of students. It may take a bit of time and effort for both adoption, and on Apple’s part for hardware costs, but I believe it’s a wonderful direction for education to be headed.