Digital destruction or educational empowerment? Apple targets the academic sector with its trio of textbook-related apps: iBooks 2, iTunes U for iOS and iBooks Author.
As was widely expected, overnight Apple launched its renewed push into the education sector, announcing three new products aimed at digitally overhauling the academic textbook market. iBooks 2, a comprehensive update to Apple's default ebook reader application for iOS, now supports multiple textbook-oriented features catering to students, including interactive visual aids and diagrams, highlighting and study cards. iTunes U, the section of the iTunes Store devoted to educational content, is now supported by a new iTunes U app for iOS devices, which lets students access courses and teaching resources from universities (which institutions can administer via the web). Apple also announced its iBooks Author software for the Mac, which enables users to freely create ebooks (including but not limited to textbooks), with the proviso that commercial works are only distributed in Apple's iBookstore.
Although all the software is currently available in the Australian market (iBooks 2 and iTunes U in the App Store, iBooks Author in the Mac App Store), no Australian-specific content deals have yet been announced by Apple Australia. In the US, Apple's pricing for digital textbooks is markedly cheaper than their print equivalents: the majority of iBookstore titles from publishers Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill and Pearson will come in at US$14.99 or less. Apple's announcements overnight came as little surprise to the tech industry, largely owing to the acute revelations made in Walter Isaacson's hugely successful Steve Jobs biography published late last year: "In fact Jobs had his sights set on textbooks as the next business he wanted to transform. He believed it was an $8 billion a year industry ripe for digital destruction."