Apple's iBooks 2 is revolutionary, but not yet

Apple's iBooks 2 is revolutionary, but not yet
Education in America is something that is in dire need of a reboot, and Apple is looking to do just that with its new iBooks, iBook creation tools and iTunes U features, but just don't expect this to be a quick change. We are here at PhoneArena because we not only love technology, but we love writing, so it's hard not to get excited about the potential of the tools and products that Apple announced today at its education event in New York City. If you somehow missed the news (which would have been pretty difficult), Apple announced big updates to iBooks and iTunes U as well as a new creation tool called iBook Author.

To hear the Apple marketing team tell it, this move was made in an effort to revolutionize education by bringing textbooks into the present day, and it certainly has that potential. But, we wouldn't be fair if we didn't talk about the other half of the reason Apple is doing this, which is of course to sell more iPads, and it will certainly do that, but it may be a pretty long road for Apple.

Education is one of the most stubborn sectors around, especially in America. Teaching methods can be archaic and uninspired, and it can be difficult for schools to hire better staff or purchase adequate supplies because of low funding. Unfortunately, while these schools may be in the most dire need of the potential of new iBooks textbooks, they will also be the very last to benefit from this updated medium. And, when they finally do benefit, it will most likely not be with iPads.

The new iBooks textbooks are almost everything that teaching materials should be. They are interactive, multimedia, annotatable, and best of all updatable. These are the first textbooks that can teach no matter how you tend to learn best. If you are a visual learner, there are images, and interactive models. If you are an auditory learner, there are movies. These books can also never go out of date, because they can be updated with corrections, and new information. Of course, this leads to the first roadblock to adoption.

Roadblock #1: Textbook pricing

One of the most impressive announcements today was that textbooks would be priced at just $14.99 or less. As anyone who has gone to college knows, that price point is absolutely absurd. Textbooks is an incredible racket both for publishers and schools. Used book sales are huge money makers for every university and college bookstore, and updatable digital books are going to throw a huge wrench into that scheme. Textbooks are also notoriously expensive, which is good for publishers, but the cost has been offset by the relatively small market for textbooks, and that's where Apple has created a unique opportunity here, but it's unclear what market Apple is aiming for. 

Textbook publishers have had a relatively perfect system, because they knew what universities were offering classes which required certain textbooks, and knew the maximum number of students potentially in the market for certain books. This meant that textbook publishers could be far more accurate with printing amounts and not be left with many extra copies of books. However, the savings from being able to avoid overprinting is often offset because the market for the books is relatively small from year to year. $14.99 is not only an insane price cut from what publishers would normally charge, but it is a one time fee, not a subscription model. One theory is that colleges usually buy one copy of a textbook every 5 years at an average of $80 per copy, so the iTextbook pricing is on par over the same time period. It's an interesting theory, but we're not sure it completely adds up. Still, the pricing could be a benefit to customers, but may alienate publishers who want to stick with the older system which allows them to charge far far more. We say this "could be" a benefit to customers because there's no guarantee that publishers are going to be creating full digital copies of those $200 college textbooks just to sell them for $15. There is a possibility that the iTextbooks may not be as comprehensive as we would normally expect from something labeled a "textbook".

It also presents a new challenge for publishers who do adopt the platform, because they will be looking to make up for the price difference through selling in volume, which may be Apple's overall strategy anyway. Apple has already been targeting a more casual education market with its iTunes U offerings, and the additional features connecting iTunes U to new iTextbooks makes it seem like that is still at least part of the plan. However, a more casual audience is relatively untapped territory. Given the current economic climate and the number of people who could use some cheap education to help in transitioning into new job fields, it is certainly a territory rife with potential, but one that has never been tested before. Not to mention, in order to reach this new territory, we hit the second roadblock:

Roadblock #2: iPad cost

The option of cheaper access to college courses and education materials definitely looks like it would lend itself to aiming at a transitioning work force, but cheaper textbooks are only one side of the coin, and the other side is not cheap. Not surprisingly since this is Apple after all, the only way to get the benefits of new iBook textbooks is to own an iPad, which is still a sizable investment for many people. As we said, the market is there for textbooks to hit a more casual market outside of the collegiate system because many people are looking to learn new skills in order to find jobs, especially when combined with the new tools available through iTunes U to be able to access college courses at your leisure. But, a market of individuals looking for jobs is probably not the best market to tap when a requirement is to buy a $500 device to use the new education system.

Really, it may not be the best option overall for schools either. Sure, iPad adoption is on the rise in school systems, especially on the collegiate level, but iPads are still just too expensive for many primary and secondary school systems where the benefits of these new educational tools would be far more impactful than at the collegiate level. The far lower cost of textbooks would offset those costs to a certain extent, but it is still a pretty big investment that will be needed by schools and students. And, as we mentioned before, given the price that publishers will be forced to charge, these new textbooks may not be comprehensive enough to be used for many classrooms, although this concern shouldn't extend to primary and secondary schools, and would likely affect the collegiate level more. 

This reality is something we see with all technological advances and really isn't avoidable, but it's more difficult to watch when the impacts could be so positive. Any time we see a technological bump, the richest are the first to gain access to it, and the poorest (and usually the most in need of the benefits of the new technology) are the last to see the benefits. As Kevin Kelly has said, this creates a system in which "the rich early adopters 'subsidize' technology development for the less rich and poor who adopt it later." Or, at least that is the normal cycle outside of Apple's walled garden.

The problem is that no amount of early adopters are going to bring down the price of the iPad if Apple doesn't want to lower the price; and, because publishers are going to invest so much into creating these textbooks for the iBooks platform, it may mean that we see slower adoption of alternatives on cheaper platforms. Even assuming these textbooks will be complete enough for use in actual classrooms, many schools would be far more willing to buy Amazon Kindle Fire tablets with comparable ebook options for textbooks than to buy an iPad because the cost would be so much lower.

Of course, this is Apple, so it goes beyond locking the software to Apple devices:

Roadblock #3: The Apple lockdown

The new iBook Author software will not only make it easier for textbook publishers to create books for Apple's platform, but it will create an interesting option for amateur authors looking to self-publish their works. So far, Amazon has dominated this market by allowing authors to bypass the traditional publisher system and create ebooks to be listed in the Kindle store. The iBook Author software gives Apple a horse in that race, but it's a horse with some dangerous tricks.

The End User License Agreement for the new iBook Author program includes a passage, section 2b, which states that work provided free of charge can be distributed wherever you'd like. However, if you want to charge for said work the EULA says, "you may only distribute the Work through Apple and such distribution is subject to the following limitations and conditions: (a) you will be required to enter into a separate written agreement with Apple (or an Apple affiliate or subsidiary) before any commercial distribution of your Work may take place; and (b) Apple may determine for any reason and in its sole discretion not to select your Work for distribution." This means if you want to charge, you will effectively be barred from selling that work anywhere but Apple's iBookstore.

It is unclear how different a work has to be in order to avoid this condition, so it may just mean that publishers could have special versions of textbooks on iPads and different, but comparable, versions on other platforms. But, that is merely a workaround for textbook publishers and not a solution to the basic problem for all other authors, which is that Apple as a publisher is a bad thing for books. Books need to have wide reaches, and limiting the reach of a book to just the Apple platform is something of a travesty in our opinion.

iMovie has been a revolutionary product not because it feeds back into the iTunes store, but more because what you create in it can be put anywhere like YouTube or Vimeo. Garage Band has certainly added a lot of content to the iTunes store, but creators are not locked in, and can put that music anywhere. Sure, iBook Author is a different beast than either of those, but that's the problem, not an excuse. iBook Author should be a way for amateur authors to create their works and then distribute that work anywhere to get the most exposure just like they can with any of Apple's other creative programs. Apple could easily add in extra features to incentivize authors to publish in the iBookstore, but to mandate it is an awful thing to do.

Conclusion

All of this adds up to exactly what you would expect from Apple: an amazing set of products that has the potential to revolutionize an industry which is desperately in need of revolution, but will be held back by the fact that it is Apple. E-textbooks with full multimedia and interactive elements is the logical progression for textbooks, and putting better authoring tools has been proven as the way forward in self-publishing to electronic devices, but Apple's need for control means that we won't be seeing the most from these great new tools until competitors catch up.

Perhaps, the other shoe just needs to drop, and Apple will announce a $300 iPad mini at some point this year, but until then this great new system will be in a relative limbo. iPads are huge sellers to be sure, but the cost is still prohibitive for those who need access to these new textbooks the most. Many high schools and elementary schools won't be able to take on the cost of buying iPads, and neither will the students' families. Additionally, while universities will see higher adoption rates for iPads and iBooks, at just $15, it's unclear if the textbooks offered will be university-grade books. And, even if you were hoping to just get your great novel off the ground by self-publishing, you have to lock yourself into the Apple world to do so.

As anyone who has published in the Kindle store will tell you, better creation tools for ebooks is definitely a great step forward. Just looking at the demos of new iTextbooks, it's easy to see the educational value there, but it's hard to see these amazing new tools creating the revolution that Apple always promises. At least, we may not see that revolution until the competitors make more accessible options.

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43 Comments

43. Slammer

Posts: 1515; Member since: Jun 03, 2010

---" A lot of students will be happy picking up iPads knowing that they're actually saving money and getting a very popular device at the same time"--- Popular? Yes. Saving money? No. Students thinking with their lower extremities will cost them dearly and strangle education. Apple is bent on clearing profit margins and getting ipads into as many hands as possible. What better way to do that than hitting the most easily influenced age groups? Itunes and Ibooks are designed to take many things that are free and make people pay for them. This can be costly for students on budgets. The things not obtainable through these channels will get lost from what normally can be obtained elsewhere. This will close off or restrict much of the accessible education. There should be no place in this enterprise for Apple to grasp education with their highly concentrated vertical integrati on hold. If Apple doesn't approve of a program, it doesn't make it to students. Is this how you want your education? What should happen, is the industry to expand the idea to all platforms so it is accessible for every student to explore every fact or opinion written in recorded History. John B.

24. danwatson

Posts: 117; Member since: Jan 03, 2012

Roadblock #4 Limited Consumption You will only be able to view purchased books on the ipad and possibly other idevices. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of computer users, your purchased textbooks will not be able to be viewed on your home PC, windows/chrome laptop, android/windows tablet, mobile phone, ereader, or other devices. This is a huge step backwards and negates one of the largest advantages of digital media. Roadblock #5 Hardware lockdown Not only are you limited to the ipad, but your textbooks are physically downloaded making them only available on your particular ipad. There is no cloud storage or remote access for those moments when your ipad is stolen, lost, out of power, or left at home. This negates another HUGE advantage to digital media over physical books. Roadblock #6 Stolen Backpacks I guarantee if you ever see wide adoption of this media, especially if only available on the expensive and popular ipad, you will see much higher rates of crime, especially in younger grade level schools.

33. ilia1986 unregistered

Your post reflects my thoughts on this. Good thing Apple is doing something awesome for US education. Bad thing Apple is forcing everyone to use an iPad in order to achieve this. Now - this isn't like in the past Apple gave Macbooks away for students - because a Mac can run Windows as well. But can the iPad run Android? No.

21. jmoita2

Posts: 930; Member since: Dec 23, 2011

Chapizzo, the only thing Apple would do in Africa in open a factory with even lower wages and conditions than those in China.

15. chapizzo

Posts: 116; Member since: Sep 13, 2011

Bravo. Thanks again Michael for another very informative piece. Have you watched the movie limitless? I am begining to think you might be sitting on a box full of those colourless pills. Lol Anyway, its not just in america that the education needs a reboot. Talk about Africa! I was a teacher some time back, but had to move on to other things. Believe me, apple has a great product that would totally change things down here in Africa. But ofcourse, most of Africa is full of poor people. These are the ones that need such advances the most. But will apple ever make them accessible? I doubt it. They just love their profits way too much. And whats with all this love to control everything? Though it had gone down with Steve Jobs (RIP). For this to grow, apple needs to relax those tight controls that they love to have on everything. I bet you if they could control the speed the earth spins at, they would.

40. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

I'm quite sure that education worldwide can do with some serious reform, but I can only really speak to what I know in America.

9. tacohunter

Posts: 408; Member since: Nov 06, 2011

If anyone can revolutionize it then it's apple (or windows). They have both done a lot for education, apple did actually more (if you think about it). Competitors will catch up, but I don't know how they're going to make this better? If you look at it these textbooks are really great. I can't think of an idea to improve it in anyways. The only minor of it, is that it is not affordable for everyone. Roadblock #1: Textbook pricing The publishers could easily make textbooks cheaper because they don't need to print. I agree with this. Roadblock #2: iPad cost This is just hoping they will reduce the cost of the iPad. But the iPad is affordable for most people. Roadblock #3: The Apple lockdown This is the interesting part of your article . Apple wants to control it all. The only disadvantage I see, is that you can only sell your work at the apple's ibook store. With other words this controls a lot. But for now it won’t matter because apple is the only one right now who has these new textbooks. If a competitor comes within half a year with their idea of revolutionized textbooks then they rushed it to much. This is only the start of it. I got the iBooks 2 update but can’t even test the free textbook just because I don’t live in the US. I request that you make an article of this again half a year later, to early

10. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

#1) Ebooks are already cheaper. Great example, my current book is $120 at the book store. I got the Ebook for $50 and it includes all media, ect ect ect.. with no hardware restrictions. #2) The ipad is NOT affordable for most people. $600 is a huge expense when american unemployment stands at 20% in true numerical form. Apple may post large world wide sales of ipads but they are still an extremely niche product compared to the world population. #3) Apple is in no way shape or for the only one that has interactive Ebooks. Yes, theirs is far nicer than anything else thats out right now. But nice enough to get locked into apple only, at reduced profits, where apple controls the industry and makes more than the book publishers? That id love to see. Competitors already have ebooks, ebook stores, and the like. And they do it without demanding pricing or trying to control the process. With some minor updates amazon/google/barnes n noble/ whoever/ can have all the benefits that apple just showed off, without any of apples controls. It is absolutely obsurd to me that Apple thinks they can demand control of an industry.. again. Like i said in the earlier post. The book industry isnt in need of the upgrade like the music industry was. It already made the upgrade without apple. Here's to hoping that apples greedy power grab falls flat on its face.

13. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

oh, figured I'd clarify #2. True numerical form. Just incase anyone didnt know this, unemployment counts ONLY people that are ON unemployment benefits AND seeking a job. It does not count the millions who no longer get benefits, gave up searching for a job even though they get benefits, or are extremely underemployed. We had a statistical drop in unemployment last month for 1 reason.. like 2 or 3 million people lost their unemployment benefits for being unemployed so long. The actual number of people looking for work/out of work did not change. When you add in all those people that are truely unemployed the number gets dangerously close to 20%. We are in a true recession/depression.

14. sorcio46

Posts: 435; Member since: Jul 27, 2011

+1 and iPad cost in Europe is even more !

19. tacohunter

Posts: 408; Member since: Nov 06, 2011

@ sorcio46 I live in europe I know that If you talk about controll talk then about every big company, the only thing that's right is that apple wants the biggest controll of their products. Althought sometimes they lower or tighten it. I'm done posting.

18. tacohunter

Posts: 408; Member since: Nov 06, 2011

#1) this new textbook is just a start, your ebooks are not the same YET #2) the previous ipad will always be discounted when a new arrives. It is reasonable affordable, and sure the price will drop later, and maybe you will receive special actions like the back to school action 100€ off a mac and other stuff also discounted. #3) Yes they try to 'controll' many things but it's not such a great issue as it seems. You forgot that with iOS 5 the 'control' is losened. The pc free feauture, you don't have to install iTunes or own a pc. When itunes was made for windows the controll is also lowered. Eventually they will. If you talk about apple controlling it would be weak of you not to talk about other companies controlling But google has also 'controlled' alot. Simple said they're a monopoly, they controll the entire internet. they can say wich site is more important, and ask sites to pay to google so they can be prior of that word you just googled. But I hear no one complaining because google earned it. (read in the newspaper) Google search is just good. And I'm only talking about the search engine here.

22. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

dude seriously? Apple loosening its control is just shy of more believable than iran and china touting human rights. name me 2 other instances in digital media where the curator of the store (aka apple) forces people to sign exclusivity contracts so that they can never ever ever sell their product anywhere else, then demand pricing, and take a cut of that. NOWHERE ELSE does that happen. Google is not a monopoly. Google gives options. They dont intrude, or even try to intrude on your choice to use somewhere else. They dont force u to use a single option of them. You obviously dont know what a monopoly is. BING that definition and get back to me. Your still not getting it. Most schools are cutting back and laying off teachers to make shrinking budgets which are based on tax revenue, which are obviously shrinking because of the depression. Even if they took $100 whoooole dollars off of the ipad, that still makes it a 400-500 purchase. Most people still cant do that. Have u used an Ebook lately? My ebooks are chock full of pictures, videos, can be updated, highlighted by groups, and all sorts of stuff. The ONLY thing the apple book does is make it prettier and adds a few tools for the teacher. Nothing that cant already be accomplished with the current system, and without apple's dictator like controls. Like I said. apple's ebook was impressive, but they completely dropped the ball when they made everyone remember that they are in fact, apple, and think they can force people to do what they want, whenever they want. Good luck getting those publishers to sign exclusive deals with MS and Google lurking in the wings with similar products, cheaper, and less demands for control.

25. tacohunter

Posts: 408; Member since: Nov 06, 2011

Watch the keynote. And I read an interesting article about google yesterday in the newspaper written by a technology journalist. mhh who's opinion would i believe more? a fan boy or a journalist???? Can't decide HELP Lol remix you should be a technology fan rather then hating, not what you do now whenever you say smth good about apple and yes you do, then you need to say ten things bad about apple later. You should be proud microsoft and apple exist your pc would look primitif if if one of those important companies didn't exist. But your a hater you don't look to the bigger picture.

28. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

The only negative I've said about apple in this instance is their need to control. And thats a big negative for an industry that alreadybdoes tthis stuff. My point, if you believe me or not, is thqt ebooks are already doing most of what apple showed off.. apple was just more fluid. There is no need for an industry take over. I love the product but despise the way they want it delivered. The only good thing is that it might make MS and Google take ebooks more seriously.

36. E.N.

Posts: 2610; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

Apple is not controlling anyone. This is merely an option for publishers if they so choose. I and millions of others still prefer textbooks

20. jmoita2

Posts: 930; Member since: Dec 23, 2011

Where do you live,TacoHunter?

26. tacohunter

Posts: 408; Member since: Nov 06, 2011

Europe

8. theoak

Posts: 324; Member since: Nov 16, 2011

I know at university ... I highlighted and commented my text books like crazy. Hopefully the interface will allow one to create "notes" or "comments" and similarly a "highlighting tool" (with different colors). What would also be cool if one's notes and highlighted material could be searched along with the rest of the text of the book. It would also be cool if I could add hyperlinks in my own "notes" like "the definition for this word is found on page 100" ... where I could drill down on page 100 in my personal note and get there. Lots of potential.

16. SlimSoulja86

Posts: 660; Member since: Nov 03, 2011

Thumbed u down by mistake. I hope Android take your ideas and develop something like that. 1 million thumbs up

23. theoak

Posts: 324; Member since: Nov 16, 2011

Thanks ... The only thing that keeps me on physical books is the ability to mark it up ... add notes the professor may say ... scribble a drawing ... add a note to a graph that might be in the text book ... highlight one color here, another color there ... circle a paragraph ... essentially mark it up as I see fit. If an "electronic" book allowed me the same freedom ... tap a paragraph for example and add my notes, drawings, scribbles ... add multiple bookmarks ... perhaps tagging my drawings so I could search on them too ... with searching capabilities on the "stuff" I added ... .then I would be more inclined for electronic books for education. Hopefully the publishers do not take the attitude "this is our book and you can't alter it by your mark ups". Hmmm ... and if I missed a class one day ... I could get the "mark ups" from my friend and integrate them into my book. Maybe I could purchase the mark ups from a student that took the class a prior year ... ;) I think we are almost there ...

27. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

they already do that. My ebooks have highlighters , note editors, interactive media ,and the ability to be edited by a group. You can see your friends highlights and notes by the teacher. That's my point. Apple is doing what they always do... take a product, refine it, try to take full control of everything, and call it a revolution.

6. ZEUS.the.thunder.god unregistered

gr8 article. again a must read from Mike. good job done :)

5. jmoita2

Posts: 930; Member since: Dec 23, 2011

Very true. Realisticaly speaking,the future of ebooks belongs to Android. How else are children and college students supposed to be able to afford etextbooks,if for doing so thet must first become financially independent ,so that they can afford the "glamour" of ipads? Android is a tool for learning,a tool that is accessible to all and that moreover works really well. Apple has become a company aimed at the affluent with plenty of extra disposable income. Nothing wrong with that,but as far as cultivating the student population,not the way to go.

35. E.N.

Posts: 2610; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

Well we haven't seen Android as a platform make any major moves to secure its future with ebooks. The average money spent for textbooks a year is about $600-$800 if you google. The price of the iPad will be covered within the first year. And let's not forget that most of the tablet buying population want iPads anyway. This just gives students more reason to buy one. A lot of students will be happy picking up iPads knowing that they're actually saving money and getting a very popular device at the same time

3. SlimSoulja86

Posts: 660; Member since: Nov 03, 2011

And oh! As always, a very very very good article. I like the way you tackle topics, by giving your opinion and supporting it with facts. All PA writers should learn a thing or two from you. Good Job Michael

2. SlimSoulja86

Posts: 660; Member since: Nov 03, 2011

Now it's time for Android to bring all this into the Classrooms. Just imagine only going to school with one device filled with all your books, and letting your 5 yr old sibling submitting his own children book into Android Booket [Android Book Market]. I love Apple but, this time I want Android to better this for everyone. Only selfish Apple fans will thumb me down. Cos this won't benefit the majority but the minority that can afford an iPad, while Android can be loaded into a cheap tablet as little as $50 [which can be used only for books, not games as this will destruct students from learning and playing games]

7. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

i already do that. been doing it for years. In my bookbag is my notes binder and my tablet. Last semester i had 9 books to read. Yet, in my bag you only find my tablet. lol. Good stuff. :)

29. c.hack

Posts: 614; Member since: Dec 09, 2009

I love tech as much as anyone - and have 2 tablets - but using them in labs, study groups, highlighting and flipping back/forth is just too much easier with plain old books. When I drop a book, I wipe it off and walk on. What do you do when you drop a tablet, or somebody sits on your backpack?

30. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

There are flip sides to everything. The choice between lugging volumes of books around and paying a little extra attention to the tablet is easy for me. I got a nice thick leather case to help with damage. Good thing about my ebooks is I can also read and edit them from any computer or internet device. You can't do that with apple.

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