New Goal from Apple: Get Rid of Textbooks

Article excerpt

Apple has introduced three free pieces of software revolving around education in a bid to gain a share of the $8 billion U.S. textbook market.

Apple wants students to stop lugging around backpacks full of heavy textbooks and to switch to the iPad instead.

On Thursday, the company introduced three free pieces of software revolving around education. It released iBooks 2, a new version of its electronic bookstore, from which students can now download textbooks; iBooks Author, a Macintosh program for creating textbooks and other books; and iTunes U, an app that lets instructors create digital curriculums and share course materials with students.

Digital textbooks made for iBooks can display interactive diagrams, audio and video. The iBooks Author app includes templates made by Apple that publishers and authors can customize to suit their content.

Apple said electronic high school textbooks from its initial publishing partners -- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill and Pearson -- would cost $15 or less. That is much less expensive than print textbooks in the United States, some of which can cost more than $100.

"Education is deep in our DNA, and it has been from the very beginning," said Philip W. Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of marketing, at the introduction event at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Textbooks are a fat target for the technology industry. Sales of electronic textbooks accounted for 2.8 percent of the $8 billion U.S. textbook market in 2010, according to Forrester Research. For publishers, the new partnerships with Apple were most likely motivated by a desire to experiment with technology than to earn a huge profit, said Sarah Rotman-Epps, a Forrester analyst.

Though the possibilities of Apple's new publishing software and the iPad seemed to excite publishers, even those who are working on iPad textbooks said it would take time for the technology to change how most textbooks are purchased. First, there is the obvious challenge of finding the money for schools to buy iPads, which start at $500 each in U.S. stores.

"It's a very high and expensive hurdle to overcome," said Josef Blumenfeld, a senior vice president at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Mr. Blumenfeld said that Houghton had seen high engagement levels when students used an educational app for the iPad that it had already published, and that it expected electronic textbooks to have the same effect. …

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