Apple announced its latest education initiatives at an event in the Guggenheim Museum in New York yesterday. Clearly following Steve Jobs’ vision to reinvent textbooks, Apple has launched the iBooks 2 app, the iBooks Author tool, and the new iTunes U.
The Apple iBooks 2 app is available on the app store now, for free. The app has been designed provide an interactive textbook experience on the iPad. Apart from interactivity, the new iBooks 2 textbooks will be better than paper books by virtue of being searchable, updatable, durable, and more portable. iBooks 2 textbooks for the iPad can contain multimedia content from video to interactive graphics, and allow note-taking, and definition searches. The platform also allows students to create study cards and lesson reviews, and choose custom layouts according to personal preferences.
The fruity giant announced it had already partnered with a variety of publishers, including Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill and Pearson, to develop digital high school textbooks.
According to the product description of iBooks 2 on the App Store:
"The iBookstore offers textbooks on Algebra, Biology, Chemistry, Geometry, and Physics from McGraw-Hill and Pearson. These textbooks are currently available to customers in the United States. Textbooks from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt are coming soon."
Apple says the high school textbooks will be priced at $14.99 or less, which it says is much more affordable than print textbooks. This however, doesn’t take into account that most schools in Apple’s primary market – the U.S. – provide textbooks for free.
The Apple iBooks Author tool is meant to help authors or publishers design and develop the new interactive iBooks 2 textbooks, with intuitive controls for laying out text and content. The tool is available right now on the Mac App Store, for free. Books published using the iBooks Author tool will be published on an exclusive area of the iBookstore, separating them from other efforts.
Apple also announced the iTunes U application for iOS devices, which will help universities deliver course content to students, including audio or video lecture content, and presentations, apart from other free educational content. Many universities have announced they will be providing content for the platform, such as Cambridge, Harvard, Oxford and Stanford. Universities can use the free iTunes U Course Manager to help develop course content optimized for the iOS platform.