WorldWide Tech & Science. Francisco De Jesús.
Apple is entering the market for electronic textbooks with IBooks 2, a free app for reading interactive full-screen digital textbooks that makes liberal use of video and animations.
Apple also announced iBooks Author, a free software application for Macintosh computers with custom templates to help authors create and publish their own digital textbooks.
Apple is broadening its iTunes U program beyond audio and video lectures by adding an app for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch that allows professors to create full online courses, with assignments, books, quizzes and syllabi. Previously available only for the higher-education market, Apple is letting K-12 schools participate for the first time.
Apple's hope is that students will find the new textbooks engaging. Students studying high school biology, for example, can view 3D animated models of structures within a cell. They can tap a word for a glossary definition and drag their finger to highlight a passage. The material can be updated. And the books can automatically turn student notes into study cards.
"No one is saying technology is the only part of the solution," Schiller said in an interview. "But it is a key piece of the solution. It can enable the teacher to have tools to excite kids that are otherwise hard to reach."
Though Apple is targeting the new textbooks at any age or grade level, the initial emphasis is on high school textbooks. Books will be priced at $14.99 or less. Early publishing partners include Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which collectively control 90% of the market, with some titles available immediately.
Pearson CIO and Director of Digital Strategy Genevieve Shore says, "Although we kind of use the metaphor of the book to describe what these products are, they're not really books at all. It's hard to do comparisons. One of the books we have has 50 hours of video in it, so that's a completely new set of interesting material that students have never had before."
Apple is also working with DK Publishing on titles that cover dinosaurs, insects, mammals and the ABCs.
Life on Earth from noted biologist E.O. Wilson is also being made available; the first two chapters are free, with the additional 39 chapters (coming over 24 months) "aggressively priced."
"This is an authentic game-changing development," Wilson says. "It brings the best to biology and keeps that up to date in a form that allows a great deal of self-teaching and exploration by teacher and learner alike."
Forrester analyst Frank Gillett says that, "the big deal here is the big jump in the authoring app and the fact that it's free. And it's not insignificant that the textbooks are modestly priced."
Video about the event: