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Apple plans a 'GarageBand for e-books' with McGraw-Hill

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.

By Electronista Staff


  1. Inkling

    Senior User

    Joined: Jul 2006


    Best possible news

    If true, this is the best possible news that could come out of this special event. As a writer, I've been frustrated that there are no solid apps to create and edit epub ebooks, much less visually appealing ones. We're expected to write in something else (Word, InDesign or whatever) and then go through a clumsy, hit-and-miss conversion process. And it'd be great if iPads would adopt standard-compliant epub 3.0.

    But if Apple intends to get serious, ebooks from their iBookstore need to be as readable on Macs, PCs and Android devices and ebooks from Amazon.

  1. rtamesis

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Jan 2000


    Pages Plus

    Maybe it's an enhanced version of Pages as an easy to use epub editor that will blow Adobe Indesign out of the water when it comes to creating ebooks.

  1. efithian

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2004


    Pages with epub3

    Pages can create epub2 documents, but not epub3. It shouldn't be too difficult, since audio and video can be used in Pages, as well as formatting more appropriate for textbooks. Reader interaction could be a problem, but not insurmountable. I placed an epub3 sample with audio into iBooks, and it was ok to read, but the audio was gone. Adobe Digital Editions could show the text, but not play the audio.

  1. abnyc

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Sep 2000


    indesign to pdf interactive

    You can embed audio and video into a indesign layout and export to pdf and it plays good. epub format is basically PDF.

  1. bobolicious

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Aug 2002


    A fundamental question...

    ...Do we really need more books in the world...?
    Copyright infringement may be another - what is the liability of an inadvertent global eFringement...?

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