Apple made a number of education-related announcements on Thursday in New York City that make it clear the company is serious about dominating textbooks, like it did with music and apps. Apple jumped deeper into the education space with the launch of iBooks 2 for textbooks, a textbook software program that allows textbook-makers and instructors to create rich, interactive teaching media for the iPad, a custom e-book creation platform dubbed iBooks Author, and an expanded iTunes U app that’s also now accessible to K-12 educators.
“iBooks” are no longer old Apple laptops made out of white plastic, nor are they simply e-books to be purchased within Apple’s iBookstore. The announcement is akin to “GarageBand for e-books,” giving authors access to easy-to-use tools on the computer in order to create multimedia content for the iPad. The iBooks (version 2) format is an improved format created by Apple based on ePub 3, but with additions and changes specific to Apple. iBooks textbooks can include animations, diagrams, photos, videos and amazing navigation. In addition, they allow readers to highlight passages, add notes and even test themselves with flashcards built from their own notes or from the index. Most educational titles on the iBookstore are priced at $14.99 (or less) and launch partners include textbook heavyweights Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill and Pearson.
iBooks Author allows anyone to create interactive iBooks with text, video, images and more. As Apple mentioned during their media event, the availability of such a robust tool to make electronic books has been lacking. And iBook Author can export projects in a number of different formats, including iBook format, PDF and text. These additions are believed to add new functionality and interactivity to the format as shown during today’s media event. “If you’ve ever been involved with creating e-books before, you know this is a total miracle in terms of time savings,” Apple told the audience in NYC. Major publishers, however, are not the only ones who can create e-textbooks. A new Mac App Store app, iBooks Author, allows educators and smaller publishers to create their own books for inclusion in the iBookstore. That can be a textbook, cookbook, history book, or more. Text and images can be added by dragging and dropping, while movies, interactive photo galleries, Keynote presentations, and more can be included via Multi-Touch widgets.
Apple also plans to expand beyond the college level, offering the iTunes U app to K-12 educators. “The all-new iTunes U app enables students anywhere to tap into entire courses from the world’s most prestigious universities,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. All three of the apps discussed in Thursday’s announcement—iBooks 2, iBooks Author, and iTunes U—are free to download from their respective app stores. Apple clearly wants to make the effort accessible to everyone, including instructors.