In what's probably the worst kept secret in Cupertino, Apple is expected to announce a partnership with major textbook publishers to produce, publish, distribute and/or sell digital textbooks to the academic market.
The consensus is that Apple will do for textbooks what it did for music, movies, TV, books and magazines: make them digital with an amazing user experience.
While the delivery vehicle is obvious (duh, iPad), it's the creation tools where things get interesting.
On Tuesday The Wall Street Journal reported that Roger Rosner, Apple's vice president of productivity applications (a.k.a. iWork), is "closely involved in developing the new digital-textbook service."
On Wednesday AppleInsider reported that "Bliss" (the project's code-name) will include software tools that will allow publishers to make textbooks more interactive.
iWork '09 includes a word-processor/page layout application called Pages and one of its lesser-known features is that it can create EPUB files. EPUB is a free and open e-book standard by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) that is supported by the iPad (in iBooks) and every other ebook reader on the market.
Since iWork '09 has supported EPUB for three years, and Apple's iWork chief is spearheading its "Bliss" textbook project, it stands to reason that Apple's new textbook creation tool could be Pages '12.
I wouldn't be surprised if Apple demonstrates Pages '12 with EPUB 3 support (and hopefully iWork '12) in New York today. In addition, I also expect Apple to announce textbook rentals (like Amazon did in July 2011) and iBooks 2.0 which will finally work on the Mac.