Today’s big announcement from New York City is out, and it’s exactly what everyone was expecting: a new kind of textbook. But the real news comes from the big-name textbook publishers already on board, and the free and simple new book creation tool for OS X.
Today at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, Apple today attempted to make history once again by reinventing yet another facet of society. In this case, it was textbooks and entire courses, for the entire range of learning, from childhood to college and beyond. Most of the courses are free, which really could revolutionize learning for students of all ages. The new textbooks are priced at $15 or less, and as Apple rightly points out, ebooks are a far superior platform for textbooks, because they can include interactive content like videos and graphs, and teachers working with students who have iPads will be able to do things like assign homework digitally, leave e-notes for specific students, and more.
To buy and read these iOS textbooks, you’ll need to download the new iBooks app version 2 (seen above), a free download. These new kinds of textbooks won’t weigh down your backpack, can be kept dynamic with always up-to-date content, and never have to be returned or traded-in. This initiative to overhaul the education system was reportedly one of Steve Jobs’ greatest desires, and has been in the works for a very long time. Launch partners include Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and E.O. Wilson.
The new iTunes U app is the ultimate tool for teachers and professors, because it gives you the power to easily create and manage courses, including lectures, assignments, books, quizzes, syllabi, and more. And not only can teachers create these courses for their own students, but they can make them available to anyone with an iOS device, the world over. Already major universities such as Cambridge, Duke, Harvard, Oxford, and Stanford have full courses available, but any K-12, college, or post-graduate school can offer full courses through iTunes U — and all for free. I’m genuinely excited about this, because if it lives up to the hype, it’s an incredible gift to the world. We’re talking about free, easily-accessible education for anyone with an iPad, iPod Touch, or iPhone. (Granted, lots of people can’t afford any of those devices, but the day is certainly coming when they’ll be able to. And in the meantime, lots of schools are providing iPads for their students to use in class.)
The biggest news for non-students is iBooks Author, Apple’s innovative new way of quickly and easily creating interactive iBooks that are specifically suited to the iPad. It may have been made with textbook creation in mind, but as Apple pointed out at their press event, it can be used to create ebooks of any kind — novels, picture books for kids, cookbooks, encyclopedias, you name it. You can import content from MS Word, Pages, Keynote, Numbers, and more. For authors, this is huge. Never has there been so user-friendly and feature rich a platform to publish ebooks. And the best part is, iBooks Author is a free download from the Mac App Store.
Apple hasn’t yet been able to make any serious inroads into Amazon’s market share of the ebook business (nor has anyone else), but iBooks Author could change all that. Anyone can publish an ebook at Amazon, but their publishing tools are notoriously cumbersome and tedious to use. No one has created an ebook publishing tool on par with Apple’s new app, and not only is it easy, it changes the entire paradigm of what a book can be, with embedded videos and interactive content.
The minds of writers everywhere (including this one) are spinning like mad as we speak.