Apple's iBooks Textbooks initiative is a welcome and natural progression

Apple's iBooks Textbooks initiative is a welcome and natural progression

Summary: There has been quite a bit of discussion about the iPad lock in and content control over the Apple iBooks announcement. It makes sense to me and I applaud Apple for their efforts.


It seems there is quite a bit of skepticism and controversy surrounding the new Apple iBooks 2 and Textbooks application and service. Most is centered on the iPad requirement and the control of output from the iBook Author tool. I agree with some of these arguments, but also believe the iBooks 2/Textbooks announcement from yesterday is just one part of the story we will hear from Apple in the near future.

iPad is best choice

All of the tablet sales data shows that there is currently no real competition to the Apple iPad in the tablet form factor so why is there even any controversy about this service, from Apple, being tied just to the iPad? The iPad just works and yet is also extremely powerful. You can go days without charging, use it without worrying about lockups, freezes, or other instability, and experience an enjoyable user interface. As James stated, it is an expensive device that could be broken by kids, but I have also seen kids go out of their way to keep their iPod touch devices safe too and can tell you it is unlikely they will treat an iPad just like a paper textbook.

What other tablets or computer systems do you want to see this Apple Textbooks support appear in? A laptop with a keyboard doesn't come close to modeling a book experience and in most cases is a clunky system to use for a textbook alternative. It seems to me it would also be easier to copy and paste book content if these textbooks were on a Mac, which won't appeal to publishers who are nervous enough about going digital. Something like the Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet would be nice to use for such a project, but it seems to me that this is where Amazon fell down and gave away this potential market to Apple. Android tablets are not being readily adopted and do not offer the same experience as the iPad. I love using eInk for longer term ebook reading, but eInk is not even as good as paper textbooks and don't improve the textbook experience.

Maybe Apple will launch a new iPad model

Many of us who have smaller 7 inch form factor tablets know this form is more portable and it is easier to protect a smaller display. We may see Apple release a small form factor iPad with a more rugged design as they see how well this new Textbooks service does. The lowest cost iPad 2 is $500 and while I think that is reasonable to protect my daughters' backs it is still expensive for school districts to roll out across the entire educational system. I hope we see Apple launch a device in the $300 price range that is optimized for the educational market. We have seen Apple give large education discounts and carry products for the educational market in the past, which is part of the reason I started buying Apple products back in 1989 so maybe we will see them do this with the iPad as well.

Content is not locked in

While I understand the concern about creating a book with the iBooks Author tool that Apple rejects, we can look at the apps they reject and have a good idea of what type of content will likely be rejected. I highly doubt that legitimate textbook material assembled into textbooks for students will be rejected while those focused on controversial topics may be rejected. You can also take that same content and publish it in other formats for other platforms, but if the iPad success is any indication of the future there really is no other competitive tablet to the iPad.

I applaud Apple for stepping up to the plate to try to help out teachers, students, and publishers as they look to bring modern technology to the classroom. They are offering the Author tool for free and they should be able to get a piece of the pie for books sold through their store. If they take their traditional 30%, then publishers are still getting 70% of the profit which is much more than they get now with traditional paper publishing.

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  • Agreed

    Just another step in the natural evolution of digital books. IMHO if kept in house, so to speak, then at least Apple will have control on the overall experience. You have to have some standardization going up against a well entrenched and understood medium as dead tree books. Like the Kindle, ebooks were not new when the Kindle came out. But it took a company with adequate resources, and a firm hand on the reigns, to say "we are going to MAKE this work by taking ownership of the entire experience", to make a real go at it. It might succeed wonderfully, it might flop miserably. But either way it will add to our understanding or what can work, and doesn't work.
    • Exactly why what can be done on a free PDF reader ...

      has to be done on a 500$ iPad plus 30% royalty fee each book to Apple? I have not figured it out other than seeing parents being setup to cover that cost.
      • Ummm


        PDF readers are not free because you have to buy something to run them on. Parents and non-parents alike ALWAYS cover the costs. Don't be fooled, whether a school can pay $14.95 for an ebook from Apple or somebody else or buy DTB's at upwards of $100 a pop (with a 5 replacement cycle if they are lucky) parents ARE paying for this, either directly though their own purchase or indirectly through taxes.

        I like to think of my childhood here. Once it was fashionable to buy encyclopedia sets for ones school aged kids, if they had the money. These things were sold door to door. The first online Encyclopedia Britannica sold at subscription in 1994 for $2000! Today you can get a DTB set of EB for $1395, or you can get the DVD for $29, or use the iPad app for $2/mo, or use Wikipedia for FREE. So somewhere this resource went from costing thousands per set such that only the weathy could afford to pretty much free. People don't want to see regular books and textbooks are marching along the same line, no long-view whatsoever. Shaking their hands "OMG $14.95 that is just soo much, and $500 for an iPad, what highway robbery?!", probably because Apple is somehow attached to what's happening at this moment. Forgetting (or ignoring) that once they have such a device they have access not just to Apples wares, but others as well, and a WHOLE lot of that is free, or will be nearly so, in the not too distant future.
      • RE: Apple's iBooks Textbooks initiative is a welcome and natural progression

        @LBiege Please show us a book that offers the same interactivity you get in iBooks using a free PDF reader.
  • RE: Apple's iBooks Textbooks initiative is a welcome and natural progression

    Umm, I have to say that this is not new, CafeScribe has had this for textbooks for quite some time.

    They are quite successful on college campuses as well. Amazon also offers similar functionality and even goes one step further in allowing students to rent many eTextBooks and/or check them out from libraries.

    Both companies allow you to read your books on multiple devices and sync all annotations and notes.

    The other problem that Apple will face is that it is starting with High School books, the problem here (at least in the U.S.) is that schools are required to provide a free education at the High School level (and below) and this includes providing all books. Saying that you need to buy an iPad and then pay for the books will not work based on the laws in the U.S. School may choose to provide an iPad and codes for the books, but given the limited budgets that most schools are operating on these days, this most likely won't be feasible.

    I like Apple products, I think they have just really messed this one up.
    • RE: Apple's iBooks Textbooks initiative is a welcome and natural progression

      @cmwade1977 <br><br>And iPad users also have access to Amazon' Kindle eTextBooks and rental program. Can access CafeScribe on an iPad. And now this iBook Texkbook offering from Apple. The choice just became easier. <br><br>Obviously, not every school can afford it. There's laptop programs all across the nation also where kids get to take home a free laptop for schoolwork. And I heard they've been quite successful for years. Obviously not every school can afford this laptop program. Does that mean they should shut it down for everyone else because other school can't afford it? What was Apple thinking?
  • RE: Apple's iBooks Textbooks initiative is a welcome and natural progression

    ... in Apple's business plan.
    What good will it do students?
    • RE: Apple's iBooks Textbooks initiative is a welcome and natural progression

      If it disrupts the sector by lowering costs and increasing supply, prices come down. There's a benefit for students.

      If it doesn't, then it will be a footnote for the historians chronicling how digital did disrupt publishing.
      • RE: Apple's iBooks Textbooks initiative is a welcome and natural progression

        @DannyO_0x98 - And there's huge financial benefit to Apple if this becomes the standard, and really, that's all Apple really wants, money. Everything they do is about money.
      • RE: Apple's iBooks Textbooks initiative is a welcome and natural progression

        @PollyProteus <br><br> "And there's huge financial benefit to Apple if this becomes the standard, and really, that's all Apple really wants, money. Everything they do is about money."<br><br>So you are saying they should do this as public service? <br><br>Ohh I know! Apple should put a paypal link on every free book you download so you can give them a donation, but only for what you think it is worth.
      • RE: Apple's iBooks Textbooks initiative is a welcome and natural progression


        And there's huge financial benefit to Apple if this becomes the standard, and really, that's all Apple really wants, money. Everything they do is about money.[/b]

        And how is this different for any other company? NO ONE goes into business unless they are looking to make money. Not Apple, not Microsoft, not Google, not anyone.
  • RE: Apple's iBooks Textbooks initiative is a welcome and natural progression

    Interesting article, and for the most part agree. Although the author did not say the iPad is more stable than competing tablet platforms, some readers may infer that the iPad is more stable / reliable than Android from the "use it without worrying about lockups, freezes, or other instability" sentence. Based on extensive use of the iPad, iPad 2, and various Android tablets, my iPads have to be reset, and freeze as often as any Android, or Windows based tablets I have used. Fortunately, none of them require frequent resets, but my iOS devices require at least as many resets as the competing platforms. Of course, your mileage may vary.

    The iPad does outsell the Android tablets; however, it also massively out-advertises them in the mainstream media. At least in the Boston area, for every Android tablet commercial / ad I experience, I see at least a dozen for the iPad. On the way downtown every day, I pass at least a half dozen illuminated kiosks ads for the iPad, see at least a half dozen illuminated end panels at bus stops advertising the iPad, pass the app. 12 foot by 16 foot iPad advertisements on both sides of the ventilation tunnel for Mass Pike which every metro-West commuter sees to / from downtown, and then see several iPad commercials that evening watching network TV. See zero Android ads each day on way downtown, and see an occasional Android tablet ad on TV, but nowhere near as often as for iPad.

    As far as user experience, that is a personal taste, and opinion. I prefer Android, and Windows tablets because iOS is too restricted for my needs, but realize / respect others may prefer the experience / features of iOS.

    I understand Apple's desire to protect their ecosystem, and sell more iPads. No problem with that concept; however since we are talking about students' education, the experience should be available on other platforms like the Kindle, and Nook allow. Have Apple control content, and take their 30%, but allow students, and others to use their platform of choice. Based on the free Life on Earth I viewed on the iPad (very nicely done by the way), I did not experience any format that would not play / look just as nice on my 10", and / or 7" Android tablets. Although a bit different, my Zinio subscriptions looks just as nice on my Android tablets as on the iPad.

    I do respect the author's and other posters' opinions, just wanted to add a bit of a different slant.
    • RE: Apple's iBooks Textbooks initiative is a welcome and natural progression

      @gadgetlover The old advertising talking point is a laim one. Marketing only gets you so far and at least where I live in FL I see more Android ads than iOS ads.
  • RE: Apple's iBooks Textbooks initiative is a welcome and natural progression

    I believe Textbooks should follow the Kindle model and be available on all devices android tablets, kindles and upcoming windows 8 tablets.
    • RE: Apple's iBooks Textbooks initiative is a welcome and natural progression

      @jatbains I believe nothing is stopping them.
    • RE: Apple's iBooks Textbooks initiative is a welcome and natural progression

      @jatbains And what about iBooks 2 prevents that from happening? Sure you can't export the book out of iBA for those platforms but there is nothing preventing you from re-authoring it in another tool for those platforms.
  • This is all sorts of wrong on every level. The RDF has got you engulfed.

    Really disapointed in you Matt. I know you have school age kids and all about the 30-40 pound backpacks. But you have really switched your brain off on this one. You should be here ripping this apart and starting a movement to stop it before it gets started. This sham is an incredibly bad ripoff for taxpayers and school districts purely for the financial benefit of apple and the publishers. Yeah there are many benefits to students from eTextbooks but they all exist outside the scope of the see through scheme that apples trying to pull here. They are adding zero value themselves and have no business getting between the taxpayers and the textbooks. The Department of Education should come out immediatelly and announce that all federal funding will be withheld from all school districts who move on this. They should permit purchase of etextbooks only in a verified open standard format with standard DRM, not some epub+apple proprietary hooks crap. If it's open to all there will be ereaders available for the windows laptops many kids already have, android tablets, kindles, etc. as each of those platforms will compete with eachother by offering the best ereaders for free. And there will be authoring tools for all of them competing with each other and producing output that will be consumable on all of them. You dont think ms or amazon would put out a fantastic ereader for free to get a slice of that pie? And it will ensure there are multiple competing markets like amazon, b&n, or the publishers themselves instead of restricting it to apples market and non competitive mark up. Id bet both ms and amazon would even host the content for download at cost if not for free. The model of the book for life is stupid beyond stupid. How many of your K12 books do you still want to read? This is pure crap solely for the publishers to rack up redundant sales and apple to take another cut. The ebooks need to be transferable so the schools can buy 4th grade books for this years 4th graders and then move them to next years 4th graders at NO CHARGE. Schools get many years out of textbooks today and theres no reason that number of years shouldnt go WAY UP with etextbooks since they should get free corrections and updates. It is our public responsibility to educate our kids, not line the pockets of textbook publishers or apple. Apple is welcome to charge for any authoring tools they wish to make and sell but thats it and no etextbooks that come out of it should be purchased unless they are standard format and work on all platforms ereaders. The Department of Education should also investigate how much of the current textbook cost of goods is the physical publishing, trucking distribution, etc. and price what they are willing to pay for etextbooks proportionally. $14.99 is a complete rip off of the taxpayer for an electronically distributed textbook. In the volume they sell they an etextbook should be probably somewhere in the $.99-$1.49 range. The way this is set up the pubs cut out 98+% of their costs and sell 10x as many doing the "for life" crap instead of reuse and want the brain dead to think it's a good deal because its less per book than a textbook today. Oh please. If I charge you $30 for something that costs me $5 and then I agree to charge you only $15 if you allow me to lower my cost to $.05 and promise to buy 10x as many do you think thats a good deal for you? And then let apple tack on another 30% or whatever for nothing? Thats garbage, insulting and disgusting. This stinks all the way down one side and up the other and the whole idea needs to be slapped back in apples face. How dare they try to rip off the taxpayers and hurt our childrens education to pay to line their pockets. This is infuriating. This is a new low for apple. And shame on the publishers who greedily lined up with them to attempt to fleece the taxpayers and take more money out of the public education system forcing more cuts in other areas. Etextbooks should result in a 80%-90% savings in textbook expenses for school districts and thats include the initial hardware cost because that should be less than the cost of one childs textbooks today. Think you will get there if it's restricted to apples hardware and appstore and authoring tool? Wake up man!
    Johnny Vegas
    • RE: Apple's iBooks Textbooks initiative is a welcome and natural progression

      @Johnny Vegas How is this a "sham"? If what I've been reading here is correct textbooks will be going from $100 to $14.99 and will ALWAYS be updated and ALWAYS available for download.

      Looking at this from the perspective of a college student - or in my case the parent of a college student - textbooks cost on average $100 new, $40-$80 used IF one is lucky enough to find one. A typical college student takes 5 classes - that's $$200-500 in books. Next semester new classes - likely another 5 classes - and another $200-500 bucks for books. Rinse and repeat for 3 more years for a grand total of $1,600-2000 for books. That are never updated. Enter the iPad and iBooks 2. A 64GB WiFi/3G iPad is $829.00. Textbooks for a typical college student as described above are $14.99 each - 20 books = $299.80 for a grand total of $1,128.80. Saving of $471-871. AND the college student not only has all of his/her textbooks that will be updated for the life of the textbook but also has an iPad that is so much more than an ereader or textbook.

      From a K-12 point of view - Apple can cut a deal with school systems for discounted iPads including a maintenance/ repair/ replacement contract for their students. This has been done before in Henrico Co, VA and was a huge success - the only reason the program was stopped was the replacement of the superintendent that initiated the program. That school system now uses Dell laptops in place of the macbooks they were using. And you cannot tell me that the publishers were selling the school systems textbooks cheaper than $50/book. Please.

      Now going to iBook Author - THAT I have some serious reservations about... I think that Apple is maintaining control of the format the iBook Author program uses and what content is put into their bookstore - which I can fully understand. But here's the rub - NO ONE is forcing anyone to use iBook Author. Honestly you are getting as worked up as the crazed SJVN Linux sheep over the Secure Boot issue with ARM Windows 8 based tablets.
    • RE: Apple's iBooks Textbooks initiative is a welcome and natural progression

      @Johnny Vegas

      Where did you pull these numbers from? OK, look the Mcgraw-Hill Biology book is not a $30 book they are selling for $15, it's a $150 book, and a lot of the others by McGraw are $170+. But let's round down to $100 saying the school got a fantastic discount. That's 7 years of books before you break even, and who knows what discount McGraw will offer in the future. You don't have to worry about corrections or new editions, you've got them so you don't have to do silly things like photocopy the corrections and hand them out with the books (don't laugh I've seen this). Hate the book or some company cuts you a better deal, well, no need to wait a decade until your current editions have reached their expected lifespan, you can switch next year.

      Then there are other things. Like the school library (heck no one but me used that even when I was in school), the computer lab (maybe downsize), all the freebies the net has to offer (Khan academy anyone?) etc. So drop the conspiracy thinking, it'll make financial sense to schools to do this or it won't. And they always have a choice: to go with something else or keep doing what they are doing now.
    • Please, put yourself out of your misery

      Or, realise that for an author Apple's terms are more generous than an actual publisher. You get a book published by [Publisher A], your contract will not let you get it also published by [Publishers B, C, D etc].

      Or, continue to make the world + dog suffer your brain spasms, which is the least preferable option.