Apple launches its etextbook and ebook Author application

Apple, the computer brand giant now shows up in the field of electronic books or ebooks.

Apple’s senior vice president for worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller uncovered Apple’s plans of launching a free application named the Ibooks 2 which has a great video and animation features that makes for an extremely interactive and digital reading experience.

To help authors create and publish their own digital textbooks, Apple also announced a new free software application for Macintosh computers named the iBooks Author.

Apple is widening its iTunes U program beyond its normal audio and video features by adding app for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch that enables lecturers and professors in creating a full fledged online course apart from preparing assignments, books, quizzes and syllabi. This feature was earlier an option only for the higher-education schools, but now they have expanded even to the K-12 schools as well.

Apple hopes that the students find this new form of textbooks more engrossing and are further encouraged to study. Students studying biology for example can view a cell’s 3D image with the help of this app. They can tap a word for a glossary definition and drag their finger to highlight a passage. All the content can be regularly updated and these textbooks can automatically turn student notes into study cards.

Apple is expanding its wings into a more complex and competitive industry in which publishers, book distributors and start-ups are also pitching their digital platforms for reading ebooks and exploring the textbook supplements like quizzes, animations, and social networking tools.

There are other lesser knows companies as well, apart from Apple to explore this field – including Area start-ups Kno and Inkling.

One of the statements by Schiller to media’s questions is “No one is saying technology is the only part of the solution, but it is a key piece of the solution. It can enable the teacher to have tools to excite kids that are otherwise hard to reach.”

Apple’s priority for now, though they plan to explore any grade level, would still be to focus more on the higher graders since their textbook content is more comprehensive and complicated, they would cost around $ 14.99 or less. Early publishing partners include Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which collectively control 90 % of the market, with some titles available immediately. The CIO and Director of Digital Strategy Genevieve Shore, Pearson says “Although we kind of use the metaphor of the book to describe what these products are, they’re not really books at all. It’s hard to do comparisons. One of the books we have has 50 hours of video in it, so that’s a completely new set of interesting material that students have never had before.”

Apple is also trying to partner up with DK Publishing on titles that include dinosaurs, insects, mammals and the ABCs. One of the famous book “Life on Earth” by biologist E. O. Wilson is also being made available by providing the first two chapters free of cost and rest 39 chapters spanning up to 24 months at a much higher price.

The director of technology, marketing and communications for South Kent School, a private boarding school for 9th through 12 graders in South Kent, Conn Mr. Gonzalo Garcia is also fascinated by the low prices of this app, he says “The thing that got me was the $ 15 {price tag}. I thought ads were going to pop up all of sudden.” The school’s students by and large prefer e-books from Inkling, a Silicon Valley startup that directly works with authors to reconstruct their content, including video, audio, a social networking feature for communicating with other students, and 3-D graphics that can be manipulated with finger strokes.

Schiller acknowledges competition. But goes on to say “no one has been successful (or) has created a platform for digital education content that has had great widespread adoption and made a difference. We think Apple is uniquely positioned to possibly be the first to make this work.”

Though certain features like iTunes come as Apple’s free app, it continues to collect its regular 30% on the sale of its ebooks. Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services states “”I wouldn’t put a lot of emphasis on the business component of this. This is not a big profit center from the company point of view. And the majority of what we’re doing is free.”

DK’s deputy CEO John Duhigg says “From our point of view we are very agnostic (and) want to put our products out on every platform. For us what the Apple platform delivers in terms of the consumer experience that makes a difference. We work with pretty much anybody that will work with us.”

However, questions continue to rise regarding how quickly this can be adopted and made available. During his presentation, Schiller did not state as to many textbooks will be made available. Apple claims that there are already 1.5 iPads already in use through various educational institutes but comparatively few students use the iPad as they are priced as much as $499 per device. They are launching few chapters initially making more available as the semesters complete and new ones are underway.

“I find (the timing) very curious,” says Jeff Sherwood, CEO of, an eTextbook price comparison site. “Obviously you would want to launch for back to school.”

Sherwood talks about his analysis, stating that most etextbooks cost around 10% below price list that can exceed up to $150. He says “I need to see what the catalog looks like. If Apple can you give a $ 150 book for $ 15, that would be pretty cool.”

Ross Rublin, an NDP analyst tweeted, “Much as with other printed content, textbook publishers will have to justify investment to add all this multimedia in Apple textbooks.” McGraw-Hill CEO Harold (Terry) McGraw III says Apple has “turbocharged the process.” and believes that the $14.99 pricing model can work. He states that “In the online world your paper, binding, printing, warehousing (costs) go away. So you can pass that along and through the volume increases you’ll do very well.” He also goes on to add that “you can’t replace content and curriculum and pedagogy. We’ve got a different platform now than a textbook to do that. Everybody wins.”

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