Apple 'education' announcement: GarageBand for textbooks?

Details of Apple's education announcement on Thursday are beginning to leak. A digital textbook model is likely to be unveiled, but how Apple deals with European issues is still unclear.

Apple, as per usual, is keeping its cards close to its chest. It is becoming increasingly clear that the education sector will be at the forefront of Apple's announcement, but what specifically is still under close guard.

The announcement on Thursday could "upend" the textbook distribution model, according to ZDNet's Larry Dignan, perhaps making way for an iTextbooks feature. It could expand out the existing iBooks digital publishing model to a wider circle of markets.

Sources speaking to the Wall Street Journal claim that Apple has been working with publisher McGraw-Hill since June on the upcoming announcement.

The choice of McGraw-Hill seems to be a carefully crafted one. Whether or not the publisher has something Apple wants or needs, it is not on the list of companies being investigated for "cartel" behaviour as described by the European Commission's antitrust authority.

While Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is thought to be one of the "most affected" by an Apple textbook announcement, Pearson was also named as one of the potential casualties to an interactive textbook market. Penguin, a publisher owned by UK-based Pearson Group was also named by the Commission as part of the antitrust suit. It could be seen that by reaching out to other publishers mitigates the damage somewhat.

The Commission is investigating five major publishers, and whether they were "helped" by Apple as part of its iBooks service for iOS devices, and pushed competitors out as a result.

ZDNet's Jason D. O'Grady puts it simply: "Publishers will use the iPad [presumably also other iOS devices] as the delivery vehicle and the Apple Store as the cash register". But if Apple were to take a 30 percent cut of all sales, publishers would "barely bat an eyelash" as textbook publishers are eager to hit the digital market hard.

Meanwhile, sources told Ars Technica that Apple will unveil a new "platform" to allow others and self-publishers to create digital textbooks, effectively "destroying" the current model. It was likened to "making the process as easy as creating a song in GarageBand", hinting that it will allow anyone and everyone to participate in the market.

In Walter Isaccson's biography of the late Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs had "set his sights on textbooks", believing that the $8 billion a year business was "ripe for destruction", as sister site CNET highlights.

There are yet no substantive rumours surrounding the eagerly anticipated "one more thing", or whether there will even be one. That, unfortunately, we have no idea about. But rule out an iPad 3 or an iPhone 5 announcement. It would be in bad form to announce a product that outshines the main focus of the event itself.

Image source: ZDNet.