Apple launches digital textbooks service

Cupertino's iBooks 2 lets publishers make fully interactive, feature-rich digital textbooks, and it has signed up partners such as Pearson and McGraw-Hill.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

Apple refreshes iBooks app to include its new digital textbook service as it looks to increase its presence in the lucrative education market and push adoption of its iPad device within classrooms.

In a statement Thursday, the company unveiled its iBooks 2 for iPad as a free app that will help textbook makers create interactive and searchable digital textbooks. Partnerships with textbook companies Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which are said to account for 90 percent of all textbooks in the United States, have also been penned. High school textbooks from these companies will be available for US$14.99 or less, Cupertino stated.

Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of marketing, told Reuters in a report Thursday that "education is in the dark ages", and the present textbooks are not always the ideal learning tool as they are "a bit cumbersome" to use. Steve Jobs, the late Apple co-founder, had also revealed in his autobiography that he had "set his sights on textbooks" in a business that was worth US$8 billion a year and "ripe for destruction", the report added.

With Apple's digital textbooks, users can expect interactive and 3D images, embedded video, and features to let them highlight texts and create study flash cards, the company noted.

This will also help push more iPads into the classroom. Schiller said in the statement: "Education is deep in Apple's DNA and iPad may be our most exciting education product yet. With 1.5 million iPads already in use in education institutions...iPad is rapidly being adopted by schools across the US and around the world."

"Now with iBooks 2 for iPad, students have a more dynamic, engaging and truly interactive way to read and learn, using the device they already love."

In addition to iBooks, the company also introduced other services. iBooks Author is a free Mac OS X tool for people to create and digital books and textbooks, using templates pre-designed by Apple, while the revamped iTunes U app for the iPad allows both teachers and students to post and access course material and assignments.

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