updated 10:35 pm EST, Mon January 16, 2012
Scoops outline Apple textbook event
Apple's New York City education event is nothing less than a rethinking of how publishers create e-books as a whole, leaks divulged Monday. One scoop characterized the process to Ars Technica as a "GarageBand for e-books" that would let authors and publishers easily build e-books for iPads and iPhones, including interactive books. iBooks would also start supporting ePub 3, which supports audio and video natively and would make the store much more standards-compatible than Apple's custom take on ePub 2.
In theory, it could at least make porting textbooks an easy process. For primary and high school, it could let the schools and teachers publish their own textbooks instead of having to print out or buy copies.
Additional leaks to the Wall Street Journal had at least McGraw-Hill involved in the project since June, although whether or not rival educational publishers Houghton Mifflin and Pearson would be involved wasn't known. Cengage said would be at the event, but the publisher wouldn't say what if anything it would do.
Regardless of the technical details, the late Steve Jobs is believed to have been even more concerned about revolutionizing textbooks than let on in the Walter Isaacson biography. Apple's co-founder was supposedly involved for "several years" and had hoped for the news to arrive in tandem with the iPhone 4S. The company delayed it for reasons unknown, although it may have been out of knowledge that Jobs would die within days.
Apple has a strong advantage in tablets for education, but outside of companies such as Inkling and Kno, there has been no concerted effort to make textbooks a core part of the experience. Being the first, if not only, e-book seller to have a democratizing tool for e-books could give it an edge over Amazon, Barnes & Noble and others that have only rudimentary support for textbooks at best.