By Danielle DeVita

 

 
 
 
 

Now, with just the tip of your fingers, you can do even more thanks to Apple.

Apple introduced its newest additions to the iFamily: iBooks 2, iTunes U and iBooks Author at a press event at New York’s Guggenheim Museum on Thursday.

The company released iBooks 2, an update to its iBooks app that makes downloading digital textbooks and interactive learning programs possible. Apple demonstrated its eBook technology, showing off a biology textbook’s 3D models, searchable text, photo gallery and flash cards. Partnering up with publishers McGraw-Hill, Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Apple plans to produce these paperless textbooks for $14.99 or less in the iTunes store.

"This is a total miracle in terms of time savings,” Apple’s vice president of development Roger Rosner said at the meeting.

Along with an interactive study software, Apple announced a free tool called iBooks Author, an app that allows authors to create interactive eBooks of their own. Users can drag Word files, images, video and widgets directly into the program. iBooks author allows the books to be previewed on the iPad and published directly to the iBookstore. The application features templates designed by Apple, but also gives users the option to create their own eBook designs.

Apple also announced their overhauling of iTunes U, a database of over 1,000 colleges and universities that post lectures and notes. iTunes U allows professors to create complete online courses, including notes, videos, to-do lists, registration, and ratings. The service allows university students and professors to communicate over message boards and now features integration with digital textbooks.

Rosner said he looks to banish the image of a student lugging heavy backpacks and textbooks—but how soon can this vision be implemented?

According to Xerox Corporation’s John Conley, vice president of publishing, the idea of an all-in-one textbook will not completely undermine the value of traditional paper textbooks and could take longer than expected to reach the market.

"Adoption of the major series like reading, math and literature, is going to take longer in development especially with [National Association of State Textbook Administrators (NASTA)] adoption states. It is unknown if adoption states and open-territory school districts could make room in their budgets for a technology infrastructure update of this nature – it seems likely that the printed textbook for the major K-12 series will hold on a bit longer," Conley said in a statement emailed to news outlets.

Whether or not Apple faces a long stretch in effectively introducing an interactive educational resource, the late Steve Jobs declared that he wanted to transform the textbook industry with the iPad in an interview with biographer Walter Isaacson before his passing.

Mr. Jobs told Isaacson that he wanted to hire well-known textbook writers to create electronic versions of their books. He said that Apple could sidestep the state certification process for K-12 textbooks by making them available free for iPads.

Apple’s additions present a triple threat to its Amazon-branded competitors, giving eLearners and ePublishers more leverage than ever before.