Apple revealed Thursday, Jan. 18, the release of three products they claim will reinvent the way students learn and the way teachers teach. The result of the late Steve Jobs’ pet project manifested itself in iBooks 2, iBooks Author and iTunes U. Whether or not this release indicates the digital destruction of textbooks, as Apple claims it does, is open for interpretation, but this much is clear: using books in education will never be the same.
Although this event may not be as exciting as the announcement of the iPad 3 or the iPhone 5, it is still big, and has the potential to change the way consumers interact with all books. One could relate this event to the Apple event 11 years ago when they announced iTunes and set the world down the path that changed the music industry and the way people interact with music forever.
The new products are intended to help establish and build a digital ecosystem for books to exist online. Although they are not the first in their class, with competitors like Kno, Inkling and Kahn Academy all already well established, they follow the same model that all Apple products do: they accomplish virtually the same things as their competitors, but they streamline the way users interact and take it to the next level.
iBooks 2 is an update to the existing iBooks platform available on any iOS devices, like an iPad, iPhone and iPod. iBooks was Apple’s contribution to the eReader trend pioneered by others like the Nook and Kindle. The eReader is already quickly replacing traditional books in many people’s lives, offering a lightweight device that provides ease of use and sophistication to readers.
iBooks 2 adds to existing functionality by letting users do more than just read. In addition to reading, users can interact with Features in the new digital textbooks because of the additional support available in iBooks 2.
The increased functionality and support in iBooks 2 was designed to work hand in hand with iBooks Author, which allows publishers and individuals alike to publish their work directly to iBooks.
iBooks Author offers applications that allow authors to not only publish books, but to add video, pictures and many other features. These features will play a large role in the success of the new digital textbooks. Since these textbooks will exist on devices already connected to the Internet they can constantly stay up to date and have access to these features.
Imagine watching a video of a whale in a marine biology textbook, then engaging in a comment thread including thoughts and opinions of others studying the same material. It’s those functionalities, as well as many more, that give these new textbooks, or smartbooks, as some call them, so much potential.
Apple announced that Pearson, McGraw Hill and Houghton Mifflin, who, together, make up 90 percent of textbooks in print, are already on board. The textbooks will be offered at the surprisingly low price of 15 dollars each. The reasons these publishers can support the 75 percent drop in textbook price is the consistency of textbooks being purchased, since students will no longer be able to sell them to others, and the market for used textbooks will vanish.
Similar to iBooks 2, iTunes U is an update to an already existing Apple product. iTunes U is a compliment to iBooks 2 and iBooks Author, as well as to teachers and students who use it. iTunes U is similar to UVU’s own Canvas in that teachers can post schedules, syllabi, homework and full course notes, all of which are available online to students. Teachers can also communicate with students through iTunes U, and given that iTunes U is now a free app on iOS devices, students can constantly stay updated with their classes. iTunes U also boasts more than 500,000 lectures, seminars and videos from major universities like Harvard, Yale, Stanford and many more. All of these are accessible for free through the app, or through iTunes on your computer.
Looking back at how iTunes changed an industry can help us look forward to imagine how these products can change another industry all the same. These products are big, and their potential is even bigger. Although this announcement won’t mean the immediate digital destruction of books it is a large contribution to the slow, but eventual decline of physical books, as they have been previously known.
By Gibson Smiley – News Writer