Editor's note: Mario Armstrong is HLN's Digital Lifestyle Contributor. You can follow him on Twitter @MarioArmstrong.
Apple has always been a strong partner in education, and has been offering students and institutions discounts on its hardware for decades. At today’s announcement at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, Apple announced how it will be taking its commitment to education a step further with several major advances in how textbooks are both produced, purchased, and read.
The bottom line is that traditional textbooks present several major problems for students, from high prices to heavy backpacks. You remember the back pain and the lack of value the book had when the semester was over? Digital publishing, however, has taken too long to spark the e-learning expectations in education. Yes, I know e-reading devices like Amazon’s Kindle have been around but paper textbooks are still the definitive resource for students.
This doesn’t add up, on one hand more and more students are growing up in a digital world accessing content from devices, the web and creating their own as well. On the other hand they are using highlighters and handwriting note cards to study from. The traditional textbook is far from the interactive experiences students expect from the Internet, video games, smartphones and tablet devices, traditional textbooks offer flat, often outdated experiences. Schools can’t afford to buy new textbooks every year, so students often have to suffer with outdated, years-old information—a shame given how easy it is to update documents in the digital age.
The first major initiative Apple is launching today is iBooks2. It puts interactive technology into students’ and teachers’ hands, offering an interactive and rich textbook experience through the iBooks app on the iPad. Inside iBooks2 you’l have iBooks Textbooks which provide audio, video, animation and interactive elements to bring content to life and really engage students on the level of interactivity they’re expecting. Each textbook is priced at $14.99 or less, a huge savings over traditional hardbound textbooks.
But the content isn’t the only innovation Apple announced today. Apple is now providing a rich ecosystem around the textbook to improve the entire experience. Students using iBooks Textbooks will be able to take notes and highlight directly inside the book, create study cards from those notes, try practice quizzes and tests, and more.
Apple is also releasing their iBooks Author software, which lets publishers create their own iBooks Textbooks, for free with no strings attached. They want content creators to make as many media rich products as possible, with the ease of use of Apple software. Overall, this announcement forecasts huge changes in how students receive and interact with information We’ve seen how Apple has uprooted other industries like Music, Video, communications so it’s not a stretch to see how this announcement could finally be laying the groundwork to bring the textbook and the whole education publishing model into the 21st century. Oh yeah, and much, much lighter backpacks.