Techno-Files: Apple challenges textbooks with iBooks2 and iTunes U

By Lulu Orozco

The Guardsman

Backpacks might soon become lighter with Apple’s newest launch for the iPad. On Thursday, Jan. 20 Apple launched its newest trend on iBooks: textbooks made to revolutionize the way we have been taught to learn.

Elementary and high school students will now have the ability to work with interactive images, 3D graphics and engaging layouts using the iBooks app, while the updated iBooks 2 will display books with video and other interactive features.

Major textbook companies are starting to think in terms of cheaper digital textbooks. McGraw-Hill, Pearson Education and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt are already creating iBooks textbooks for the iPad.

According to Forrester Research e-books accounted for 2.8 percent of the $8 billion U.S textbook market in 2010. However with the popularity of digital technology, that percentage is sure to grow.

Schools will be able to buy the iBooks for their student, issuing vouchers to allow them to download their textbooks from the iBookstore. “Textbooks will cost $15 dollars or less,” said Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, Philip Schiller, to the Atlanta Journal.

However, with the cost of iPads generally starting at $499 dollars, the question whether all school districts can really afford them seems to be the real issue.

“The digital divide could be very embarrassing, because if you don’t have the iPad, you can’t do the quiz and you don’t get instant feedback,” says Albert Greco a former high-school principal and Marketing Professor at New York’s Fordham University.

“That is an invitation for a lawsuit. I would be shocked if any principal or superintendent let that system go forward.”

Educational Apps Reinvented for Universities

Apple also released a powerful new app called iTunes U, with more than 500,000 free college-level lectures, videos, books and other resources on thousands of subjects.

The app makes it easy for educators to design and distribute complete courses that are made available through the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

Professors will have the ability to present outlines, post notes and communicate with students more effectively.

Hundreds of universities, colleges, and K-12 school districts have already began contributing content through iTunes U. More than nine different language level books and lectures are accessible in Chinese, Dutch, French, German and Italian to name a few.

Colleges and universities like Stanford, Yale, MIT, Oxford and UC Berkeley have already begun making their interactive textbooks available. Other distinguished publications such as, MoMA, the New York Public Library and Public Radio International are also featured in the app.

Textbooks such as Introduction to Linear Dynamical Systems by Stephen Boyd from Stanford University, and American Revolution by Joanne Freeman from Yale University are some of the free college-level titles available.

Another app in the educational family includes the iBook Author, which will allow instructors to write and publish their own electronic textbooks and then make them accessible through iTunes U.

This project was a long-time ambition for Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who believed that paper textbooks could be reinvented by the iPad.

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