Apple rocks the e-publishing boat: Three key questions

Summary:Apple's education announcement still leaves some flawed logic in the company's plans to bring interactive e-books to students. Here are three killer questions to consider.

Apple's announcement today unveiling its new education offerings leaves out critical details of exactly "how" and "why."

The event itself lasted less than an hour, and was a brief scope over the latest iBooks offerings for education and how Apple intends to breathe life into its publishing platform.

1. Is this the best deal for publishing industry?

Apple may have appeared behind the scenes to do the publishers a favor but the publishing industry -- still yet to reach out to the digital market in the face of Amazon -- is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Apple has in effect given publishers an entry-level drug. Just as the music industry has to battle piracy head on, Apple came up with a solution: a premium music service named iTunes Match. Publishers still suffer at the hands of pirates, but have to face up to the fact their digital publishing infrastructure just isn't there.

Although there was no mention of the 30 percent cut that Apple normally takes on in-store purchases, Apple will still make a hefty buck out of its iBookstore. Once publishers are in, they will increasingly find themselves wanting to break away and fund their own digital publishing platform, but need Apple's user base first to achieve that financial goal.

2. Why are Windows users left in the cold?

Let's face it. Apple currently holds an estimated 6-8 percent of the desktop operating system market share (depending on where you look). If Apple is to take on the publishing industry seriously, it needs to open up its e-book curating software to users outside the Mac ecosystem.

Windows was not specifically mentioned during the announcement. In fact, it seemed that Phil Schiller, Apple's marketing chief, deliberately avoided it. It would have made sense for Apple to bring out a desktop counterpart, as Amazon has done with the Kindle software. Since Windows users appear to be left out of Apple's self-publishing platform, it's only the students that suffer.

But what did you expect? Apple will probably never bring iWork to Windows while Office is still around. Why should it extend the same courtesy to e-book self-publishers?

3. 1GB per iBook: More memory needed, more expensive iPads

As pointed out during the event, some of these textbooks can be 1GB in size, so entry-level iPads for the educational setting may be out the question. This means that poorer schools will be even less likely to buy the more capable iPads, while richer schools may still be able to afford them, but could be hit harder than they thought.

As one Twitter user put it: "If people knew just how bad the state of technology budgets is in most high schools, requiring tablets would seem hilarious."

Related:

Running rumours and speculation:

Topics: Apple

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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