Apple today announced its next-generation iBooks 2 for the iPad, which will include Textbooks for students to access engaging, high-quality and interactive content. Apple also announced the iBooks Author application for Mac that allows teachers, educators, publishers and students alike to create e-books from an iWork-style interface.
Considering that the run-up to the announcement was fraught with concern for the publishing industry, who will win and lose out from today's announcement? Will someone pleasethink of the children?!
Who thought the publishing model was dead? By saddling up closer to the publishers, Apple gains a greater spread of material to sell. Though it wasn't mentioned, Apple will presumably still take a 30 percent cut (or less; we are talking about the education sector after all).
The publishing industry also gets to stay in business. They want to move out into the digital market, Apple wants to take a cut -- therefore both win.
Rich schools: Many schools are lucky enough to have iPad devices, through state-sponsored grants and to some extent, help from Apple directly. Also, schools with the socio-economic capability to build and fund expensive Mac labs will be able to benefit from iBooks Author to create the content they wish, and even sell it on the iBooks store to other students and educators - potentially to make a buck or five.
As the fierce opponent in the publishing race, Amazon has just taken a massive slap in the face from Apple. While Amazon buys books in wholesale, Apple takes an agency 30 percent cut, making the deal seemingly fair but more balanced in the favor of the author. While comparing each respective platform, it is not entirely clear who has the greater scope, but this adds more pressure on Amazon to compromise with its authors.
Windows users: There is no iBooks Author for Windows, cutting out a massive majority of schools and students in the process. Considering that Windows still commands at least 85 percent of the global market share, and the fact that PCs are still cheap and Mac OS X doesn't run on PCs, it cuts out a hefty portion of Windows-running schools.
Poor schools: Today's announcement makes the iPad so much more appealing. Over the long run, it will offer engaging, entertaining and up-to-date content. Communities, struggling with budget cuts, are trying to retain teachers and don't have the funding to buy iPads. They will not be able to take advantage of its benefits. Some schools would be lucky to get one iPad per institution, let alone per class.
There's no doubt that making textbooks for students is made easier by iBooks Author, but iPads will cost schools tens of thousands of dollars in the short term. Apple will need to consider subsidizing the iPad to poorer schools, or at least opening up the platform to iPod touch devices for a cheaper alternative.
Running rumours and speculation: