Friday, January 20, 2012

Apple Announces : A New Interactive Textbook

Apple Inc. introduced a service to make digital versions of textbooks available on the iPad and beef up the education content for the tablet computer as it gains popularity in classrooms.
The new service, called iBooks 2, will help make textbooks more interactive with videos, animations and search features, Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of product marketing, said today at an event in New York. More than 1.5 million iPads are being used for educational purposes, he said.
With students, school districts and universities snapping up iPads, Cupertino, California-based Apple is bolstering the educational content available for the top-selling device. The new tools are designed to kick-start the nascent electronic- textbook business so a broad range of authors can make material available to students in a digital format.
“Technology has a place in improving education,” Schiller said at the event held at New York’s Guggenheim Museum.
The e-textbooks demonstrated by Apple can have embedded video, interactive pictures, as well as features for highlighting texts and creating flash cards. Publishing partners for the new product include Pearson Plc, . and McGraw-Hill Cos., which Apple said account for 90 percent of all textbook sales. Most books will be priced at $14.99 or less, the company said.

IBooks Author
As part of the program, Apple introduced software tools called iBooks Author to create e-textbooks with videos and text imported from other document files. IBooks Author will be free.
Apple also announced new features for teachers to publish curriculum for free, an extension of its iTunes U program that the company said has been used by 1,000 colleges and universities. The material lets teachers create complete online courses, with syllabuses, e-textbooks, teacher notes or videos.
“These enable anyone, anytime to take courses for free,” Schiller said.
Education is one piece of how the iPad became the fastest- selling consumer-electronics product in history. As of September, Apple had sold about 40 million iPads, generating $25.3 billion in sales. The iPad is Apple’s second-best selling product, behind the iPhone and ahead of Mac personal computers and iPod music players.
Need for Content
E-textbooks today haven’t taken off because most of the material is replicas of print versions, said Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst at Forrester Research. By adding new tools so the material will be more interactive and customized for the tablet, Apple can help jump-start adoption, she said.
“For Apple, the end goal is to sell more devices,” she said. “Sales will only go up as the amount of quality content increases.”
Still, today’s announcement isn’t expected to have any material impact on Apple’s share price, even if it will aid sales of the iPad to educators, according to Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray Cos. Apple rose less than 1 percent to $429.48 at 12:07 p.m. in New York.
School districts in California, Nevada, New York, New Jersey and Texas are among those that have allocated funds to use the iPad in classrooms. Advocates of student use of the iPad say its interactive features, such as games and quizzes, are more engaging than textbooks for modern students.
Cost Challenge
One challenge is many school districts are strapped for money to buy the iPads needed for the content, Epps said.
“Some teachers that didn’t get a raise last year or saw their colleagues laid off are going to question the priorities of purchasing iPads,” she said.
The textbook-publishing market is valued at $10 billion by the Association of American Publishing. Apple joins companies such as Inkling Systems Inc. and Kno Inc., which produce software to make textbooks more interactive and appealing with features such as videos, audio, 3-D pictures and quizzes. Chegg Inc., a popular textbook-rental service, announced a new e- textbook offering yesterday.

The e-textbook market is still small. On college campuses, even as the latest best-sellers have become popular for devices such as Inc.’s Kindle reader, digital textbooks were just 2.8 percent of total textbook sales in 2010, according to the National Association of College Stores.
“If you look at what iTunes has done for music, if iBooks 2 and iBooks Author can do that for publishing it’s a big deal,” said Forrester’s Epps.
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