Since the onset of what was termed Web 2.0, the education niche has been something of an Internet developer's "Holy Grail." While many have sought to curry favor in the halls of wisdom, few have really succeeded. With its announcement of the release of iBooks 2 and digital school textbooks priced as low as $14.99 (or less), Apple aims to put an iPad in every student's book bag.
And users are responding in numbers, according to All Things Digital, citing a Global Equities Research report saying that over 350,000 textbooks have been downloaded since the app appeared on Jan. 19.
E-books represent less than 3% of the more than $8 billion textbook market thus far, according to Forrester Research. Now, iBooks 2 for iPad enters the market front stage with not only old school "3 R's" instructional content, but high tech interactive material as well. iBooks 2 offers a vast array of user tools including animations, workable diagrams, photos, video, annotation and study tools, and more for 21st Century learners and educators. Customary Apple and Mac creativity elements populate what has to be this week's most talked about innovation release, as significant a disruptive innovation as Apple has ever produced, some say. With iBooks 2, Apple removes the middle man from the book selling process.
According to the news from Apple, not only will students be able to absorb the coming deluge of digital knowledge, but authors wanting to create new textbook works will also be able to write iBooks and publish them to Apple's iBookstore via iBooks Author. Apple has released the iBooks 2 for free to their App Store, and iBooks Author free as well, to the Mac App Store last Thursday. iBooks Author itself was reportedly downloaded over 90,000 times.
With this move, the company Steve Jobs built may well have started to reinvent not only the ways in which students learn in school, but the way textbooks, or any books for that matter, are published.
The iBooks Author, in combination with iBooks 2, takes educational and self publishing to the next level. Any author who ever made a PowerPoint or Apple Keynote layout can create a refined publication from templates replete with interactive media, study helpers, and much more.
With drag and drop simplicity and Apple quality graphics & workflow, it would seem the Steve Jobs dream of Apple integrating with academia is still alive at Apple, and one step closer to reality. Just before Jobs passed away, the technology legend talked about how the iPad is the tool to transform the textbook business. Already, K-12 publishers such as McGraw-Hill, Pearson Education, and E.O Wilson have created content for IBooks 2.
The student book satchel just got a lot lighter. As for that hefty lunchbox, only time will tell if there's an Apple in that too.
Phil Butler is editor-in-chief of Everything PR and senior partner at Pamil Visions PR. He's a widely cited authority on beta startups, search engines and public relations issues, and he has covered tech news since 2004. You can follow Phil on Twitter: @Philbo.