I was watching the live coverage of the Apple education event and the first thing that I thought after seeing the iBooks 2 with Textbooks announcement (The Verge) was that Apple may have just saved people money and pain caused by heavy backpacks while also generating more excitement for education.
When I was a kid in high school, we had lockers to store our books in between classes and I just took a book or two to class. That isn't the case for many schools today where kids have to carry all of their books in a backpack throughout the day. I have three daughters in public school and they are only given 5 minutes between classes so it is physically impossible to get to a remote locker and then to class so the school forces them to carry backpacks weighing 10 to 30 pounds. I have serious concerns about the long term implications of carrying such weight each and every day as kids' bodies are growing and developing.
My daughters use my iPad from time to time, but if Apple can truly get textbook publishers to make iPad versions then I have no problem spending the money to get them iPads for school usage. The ability to experience advanced interactions with your textbook is also a very attractive prospect and should help those who are not that enthusiastic about school. Thankfully, my girls love school and I see the use of iPads as a natural progression of technology while enhancing the learning experience.
As an engineer, I regularly paid $400+ each semester for books, many of them were used, and while using an iPad for textbooks may seem expensive we may find the total lifecycle cost is less. I think the key to success here is textbook publishers joining the Apple initiative. Apple did announce that the iBooks Authoring tool is available for free so they are making it easy to get textbooks into the iBooks 2 format.