Apple unveiled its new “Digital Textbook” platform just last week. It has taken the industry by storm signing 3 of the biggest textbook publishers (and our clients) such as Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. What excites me most about the new iBooks is not the digitization of textbooks by large textbook publishing companies, but that Apple has brought interactive media creation to the masses. We’ve been waiting for an HTML5 authoring tool! (Honestly, I thought Adobe would be the one to market first.) The need has been there since Apple announced that the iPhone would not run Flash… which is why I emailed Steve myself back in 2010:
Apple is simply sticking to its roots by marketing its products to the Education industry as it always has i.e. Apple II. However, I was a bit taken aback by Apple’s negative stance towards the US Education system. It was unnecessary for them to spend the initial 5-6 minutes discussing the US’s shortfalls. They spoke about large issues like overcrowding, teacher/student ration, dropout rates, etc. as if they are going to fix it. Even Phil Schiller, Apple’s SVP of Worldwide Marketing, was extremely somber during the entire presentation.
Education will still be iBooks’ catalyst. Apple has some 1.5 million iPads already in the hands of students across the US with 1000 1-to-1 iPad deployment programs. These implementations have occurred via school and district-wide initiatives and one such example is with nearby Burlington, MA. Every student at Burlington High School has received an iPad to replace those bulky textbooks. The details of this deal have not been made public, however, we know that Apple provides serious subsidies for the Education sector. This, in conjunction with now requiring the student/family to purchase the textbooks via the iBookstore, most likely frees up enough funds for the town/district to purchase iPads (and for the publishers to capitalize on a per-student, per-year model).
Here’s our take on iBooks 2 and iBooks Author: iBooks now allows you to import .iBooks files and iBooks Author provides you with the tools to create them. What this means is that Apple has created a brand new type of “app.” Essentially these 2 products are the App Store and Xcode of Digital Media for iOS.
iBooks, iBooks Author, and the iBookstore together form a full-out platform that allows you to author, develop, publish, and distribute books, magazines, photo albums, activity books, pamphlets, etc. iBooks Author, available through the Mac App Store for free, has truly brought iBooks development to the masses. Apple has created this authoring tool using technology already existing in Pages, iWeb, and Keynote so you will definitely find the interface familiar. It’s remarkable how simple Apple has made the process of creating consumable media; they’ve even bundled 6 templates to get you started.
As a provider of eLearning development, the killer feature for me is the HTML widget. This will actually allow you to use HTML within a designated frame inside an iBook. One can even build in communication with a backend database allowing for tracking of completion and grades via an LMS for example. All of this was technically possible before but iBooks Author has eliminated the need for technical knowhow as it automates navigation, table of contents, indexing, layout, etc. It is no doubt the “Killer App” that the iPad has been looking for.
There are definitely a few areas of improvement here. I’ll make a list:
- iBooks Author should have some InDesign or Quark integration. Many of today’s books are published via these 2 tools. If there was an import, adoption would be much faster.
- Apple should definitely integrate Newsstand publishing via iBooks Author. This will allow for publications to use iOS’s background downloading feature as well as a way to provide on-the-fly updating. Users will not need to download the newest version of a title, rather it will be “pushed” to the device.
- iBooks Author should have a Windows version. Many US publishing houses use Macs, however, internationally that may not be the case. This could be part of Apple’s scheme to sell more desktops/laptops however. At least allow it to run on Snow Leopard!
What are your suggestions?? Email me at email@example.com and I will update this post. Thank you.
Rajiv is Sales Manager at M&R Consultants Corporation (MRCC) based in Billerica, MA. MRCC provides technical and creative services to publishing, training, and development groups across all industries around the globe.