Apple rocks the e-publishing boat: Three key questions

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."


Running rumours and speculation:

Topic: Apple

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  • This is about Apple making money

    Forget the noble Apple saving education in America. This is about making Apple and its partners money. How many schools can afford iPads for each child? Maybe colleges because they just tell you to buy a iPad and get over it. But public schools? Really Apple. My wife teaches 4th grade and while having iPads would be great, her school is still using PC's and old iBooks. Remember Apple? The old iBooks. That's were spending on technology is with many schools. Apple if you were really about education you would simply make the iBooks store available to many more platforms such as PC's, all tablets and readers. But we know its more about expanding your closed eco system onto schools and giving them no choice but to pay the piper.
    • Everything Apple does is about Apple making money.

      @jscott418 It's called "business", and the [b]entire[/b] point is to generate revenue. Something Apple has mastered.

      However, it bears considering that the support and maintenance costs of traditional desktop and notebook computers (running whichever OS) is fair percentage of what deploying a fleet iPads would cost. Assuming generous Apple terms for repair/replacement of broken/dropped iPads, it may not take many budget cycles for a School District to realize a [i]savings[/i] in their IT spending. It would be interesting to see the numbers.
    • That's the American way.

      How is it a closed eco-system, when Apple is not stopping anyone from either creating or using the system? Answer: it is not FOSS (Free and Open Software). If you want an open eco-system, then wait for Canonical or Google to step up and deliver it.

      It's not up to Apple to provide multiple choices. Apple provides what it considers the best choice, and leaves it to others to provide alternative choices. That is why Apple gets so upset when its competitors, rather than provide alternative choices, only provides "me too" clones of Apple.
      Steve Webb
  • You missed key question #0

    "Is this a proprietary format?"

    Looking at the specs and that it uses HTML and Javascript, then it sounds a LOT like an existing *standard* - ePub. I've not seen anything in their announcements that could not be done with ePub (which is extensable and supports several DRM schemes).

    If their format is indeed ePub then other companies could write readers for their extensions - if they publish a spec - and we won't be locked into Apple's ecosystem.

    But it's going to be kept proprietary - then why isn't anyone yelling about this?

    Why would we want our school system to be locked to one provider?
    • Not one provider; three!

      Our school system is not locked into one provider; it is locked into three: "publishers Pearson PLC, McGraw-Hill Cos Inc and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, a trio responsible for 90 percent of textbooks sold in the United States."

      Apple holds no copyright on the content; but YES, the content will be kept proprietary - by the copyright holders. Why isn't anyone yelling? Because it is the same as it ever was.

      If you are so worried about proprietary content, maybe you should switch to Open Courseware. Schools like MIT publish their entire curriculum for free.
      Steve Webb
  • RE: Apple rocks the e-publishing boat: Three key questions

    The idea about leaving Windows users out in the cold is this: force them to move to Apple products [if they want in].

    But all in all, it's purely about $$$ for Apple.
  • Replace paper textbook with tablet? Non-sense!!!

    Apple news is all over the media again, this time it doesn't make sense to me at all. Replacing paper textbook with expensive e-book? Everyone knows paper book is so far best format in learning. Bin it instead for several hundred dollar iPad sounds crazy investment to me.
  • How is item number three even a remote problem?

    Apple's iCloud stores the textbooks or any other cloud storage system can be used.

    Zack, come on now. Didn't you have your morning coffe yet? Even in this day and age, a 500 GB HD is not necessary for online tablet storage.

    Or, did you forget about apps using a technique called memory page swapping to access sections of the app that the user needs. Even in your DOS world, apps generally were too big to fit into a computer's operating RAM. People got by.
    • iCloud is a non starter as it would require internet access at home.

      Millions of students dont have that and I dont think apple is going to provide any free 3G out of the huge profits theyre attermpting to soak taxpayers for here. The Department of Education should tell every school they will lose all federal funding if they jump on this before its verfied that this format is completely open and that there are readers available for the windows laptops many kids already have, android tablets, the kindle, etc. and that the published content is available from multiple markets like amazon or the publishers themselves. There's absolutely no reason for apple to take any profit out of textbook/school ecosystem. They are adding zero value here and our public budgets are strapped enough. They'll still make their obscene 300% profits on any ipads they sell and theyre welcome to charge for any authoring tools they want to make and sell but not to get between the taxpayers and the textbooks.
      Johnny Vegas
      • RE: Apple rocks the e-publishing boat: Three key questions

        @Johnny Vegas

        Oh come on! You would prefer the publishing industry to operate as a non-profit organization as well?

        Any business supplies a service for a fee (and, in order to stay in business, that fee will supply a profit to that organization. Business 101)

        If Apple can supply a service for less money (say 14 or 15 dollars for a textbook as opposed to one costing 100 dollars or more) than this is a good thing. And consumers (and that category includes public school organizations) will benefit.
  • Good grief. Yellow journalism much?

    Nobody is forcing the publishing industry to jump in on this. They are adults and can make their own decisions.

    Windows has about 50% share or less in higher education.

    Just because some books may be a gig in size does not mean all books are. Sheesh. Talk about logical fallacies.

    Finally, this is almost certainly geared toward higher education, where, considering the cost of textbooks, the ipad is a reasonable expense.
    • Windows has far more then 50% in higher education

      but even if you're right, half the people can't use it.
      William Farrel
      • half the people

        @William Farrel
        can't create content for it.
  • statistics

    what percentage of that 85% belongs to people who will never ever use a computer for anything but facebook/web/email? or games? or pretty much anything but work/school/etc.?
    what percentage is sitting on an office desk for nothing but office work?

    yeah, it's an impressive percentage but until it includes people like pretty much my entire family, who could get by with a chromebook and never know the difference, it's not very revealing. my sister bought a laptop because it came with a printer. i told her it wasn't the best deal. she got it anyway, two years on and printer is still in it's box. she's not about to be creating books any time soon.

    so you take away businesses and take away my family and those like them, then what are we left with?

    still, i agree. having the creator available for other platforms would have been the smart move.
  • RE: Apple rocks the e-publishing boat: Three key questions

    If Apple is serious about going back to their root, they really should just adopt ePub which is already a standard. If they feel there are things within the ePub that isn't right or there yet, they can contribute to the standard and help improve it to where it needs to be.

    And really just the thought of requiring students to have to have an iCrap to use for textbook without an alternative should be illegal unless Apple is willing to give each students in this country (to start) a free iCrap.
    • RE: Apple rocks the e-publishing boat: Three key questions


      Apple has intergrated the ePUB standard into it's iWorks publishing app, Pages, as well as Apple's iBook online resource for quite sometime.
  • RE: Apple rocks the e-publishing boat: Three key questions

    If they don't include Microsoft Windows then this will be a nonstarter.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • Same song, different chorus

      @Loverock Davidson-
      That sounds like
      "If they force people to use iTunes, they'll never sell iPods"
      "If they don't let people build apps on Windows, the App Store will fail"
      "If they don't charge less that $1 a song, the iTunes store is doomed"
      ...and so on.

      This has nothing to do with Windows, Linux, or OSX for that matter, unless you want to create and publish the books. Publishing and Higher Education remain strong markets for the Mac and OSX as it is. For the consumption of the textbook content (you know, that thing which *students* will be doing) you need an iPad. It won't work on Android tablets, and it won't work on Windows tablets (where are those again?) but if you own a tablet device the odds are that it is an iPad.

      The initiative may eventually fade or fail altogether. If it does, though, it won't be because of the lack of Windows support.
      • RE: Apple rocks the e-publishing boat: Three key questions

        @macadam Here's my concern. I can buy Adobe's tools for creating digital books and these tools can be used on Windows or the OSX. I can also publish those books to any digital store of my choosing. What's the advantage of using iBooks Author when I have to use a Mac & can only publish to iBooks?

        At least if they port iBooks Author to Windows & still for free, then I can live with the fact that I can only publish to the iBooks store.
      • RE: Apple rocks the e-publishing boat: Three key questions


        Welcome to what many Mac users have experienced for years with a variety of applications that were Windows only. And Microsoft wasn't exactly friendly with other platforms with allot of their software (e.g. Exchange, Windows Media format, etc.) until not all that long ago, and still aren't with things like ActiveX.

        The advantage of iBooks is simple. You're publishing your books to pretty much the most successful (in terms of sales revenue) mobile device ecosystem which also happens to be tied to the only tablet that seems to matter (at present) in terms market share.