Apple’s January 19 education event focused on:
- The release of iBooks 2, updating it’s e-book platform to support interactive textbooks.
- The launch of iTunes U iOS app, which is a distribution platform for university lectures and course material.
- The launch of iBooks Author, a free Mac app that allows anyone to easily create and publish an e-book for distribution in iBooks 2.
This announcement has Steve Jobs fingerprints all over it. One of the most interesting things, and very unique in regards to Apple events, is that the announcement was foretold in Walter Isaacsson’s Steve Jobs biography. Jobs was discussing with Isaacsson his thoughts on how the textbook market was ready to have the rug pulled under it’s feet by digital disruptors:
In fact Jobs had his sights set on textbooks as the next business he wanted to transform. He believed it was an $8 billion a year industry ripe for digital destruction. He was also struck by the fact that many schools, for security reasons, don’t have lockers, so kids have to lug a heavy backpack around. “The iPad would solve that,” he said. His idea was to hire great textbook writers to create digital versions, and make them a feature of the iPad. In addition, he held meetings with the major publishers, such as Pearson Education, about partnering with Apple. “The process by which states certify textbooks is corrupt,” he said. “But if we can make the textbooks free, and they come with the iPad, then they don’t have to be certified. The crappy economy at the state level will last for a decade, and we can give them an opportunity to circumvent that whole process and save money.”
Unfortunately for Australians, textbooks are not available in the Australian iBooks Store. This is just another example of new technology and content deals being launched by large American companies not being available in Australia, or other markets.
We have no date when textbooks will be available in Australia, however Australians can use the iBooks Author e-book creation app, which promises to be for book publishing like Garageband is for music creation.
As usual, however, Apple are not able to avoid controversy. When a user creates an e-book in iBooks Author, the only means for distribution is through Apple’s own iBooks store - where they will take a 30% cut if you decide to charge a price for the book. This is in line with their App Store model.
Ofcourse, if you decide to distribute it for free, then Apple will not charge you.
This seems entirely fair to me. Apple have built the tool that allows you to create the e-book. They’ve built and maintain the platform for distribution. If you decide to earn revenue from making and distributing the book through Apple’s platforms, then it’s only fair that Apple get’s a cut.
While everyone can see the benefits of multimedia-rich, interactive and beautiful textbooks easily distributed through a centralised digital store, some are questioning whether textbooks should live inside Apple’s walled garden - do we want to give Apple control over the curriculum?
A more damning controversy is erupting around a hidden statement in the iBooks Author EULA. The statement claims that Apple not only own’s the right to distribute the book exclusively through iBooks, but they also own the rights to the content of the book.
This, as stated by the usually Apple-favouring John Gruber, is unprecedented:
This is Apple at its worst. Let’s hope this is just the work of an overzealous lawyer, and not their actual intention.
Apple have uploaded the video feed from their education announcement, which you can watch over at Apple.com
Below is the great video Apple made showcasing the iPad’s role in education.