Apple vs. the Textbook: Can Education go Paperless?

Courtney Williams's picture
Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Apple announced that it was "reinventing the textbook" using the iPad, its iBooks bookstore and a new kind of book creation tool. But despite the tremendous success of the iPad in recent years, and despite the biggest partners in educational publishing, does the company have the ability to effect real change?

Or is Apple ignoring some serious obstacles? Content providers and education experts are torn.

During a press event on Thursday, Apple senior vice president Phil Schiller explained that the "iPad is rapidly being adopted by schools" and that the brand-new iBooks 2 app will offer students an interactive way to learn using a device they may already be familiar with.

Schiller described the iBooks Author app and how it can be used to easily create these interactive learning experiences. He also announced that three major textbook publishers — Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt — are working to provide content priced at $14.99 and under.

What Schiller didn't touch on, however, is how Apple will control the quality of textbooks offered through the iBookstore, whether these interactive textbooks will truly be a help (rather than a distraction), and how he expects all these snazzy new tools to make their way to students who may not be able to afford iPads.

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