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 These books can also never go out of date, because they can be updated with corrections, and new information.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.


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.



1. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

nice read. I was very impressed by the layout of the apple ibooks. i wondered how they would handle this.. since i was hoping cook wouldnt keep things run like a despot like jobs did. Sad to see that nothing has changed. Apple wants to force publishers to make much much less, so they can maintain their 70% profit margins selling iPads. Apple is again demanding that an entire industry bend to its will like they did with music. the difference is, that the book industry isnt in dire need of being forced into a new millennia like the music industry was. Its already there. I dont use physical books for my college education. I havent for a long time. My android tablet already has a book store on it, and many major book companies already have a specific ebook reader for apple and android.. and they already have multimedia components. It may not be as fluid and eye catchy as what apple just showed off, but it more than gets the job done... and its already better than regular books. In short, what excitement there was died the moment that you went into all of apple's insane rules and regulations for book publishing and pricing. There is absolutely nothing to justify the industry bending to apple on this when competitors already do 90% of that and can easily add the other 10%.. all without crazy publishing rules and regs through the amazon, barnes and noble, and/or google book store. Apple fired the first shot... dazzled us.. then ultimately missed. I await Amazon's return volley.

4. SlimSoulja86

Posts: 660; Member since: Nov 03, 2011

I agree with you.

11. chapizzo

Posts: 116; Member since: Sep 13, 2011

totally agree with you remix. Nice take.

12. sorcio46

Posts: 435; Member since: Jul 27, 2011

Me too with my Android tablet, i don't want Apple closed system !

17. ZEUS.the.thunder.god unregistered

well said as usual. good job done

31. stealthd unregistered

The three companies Apple made deals with make up 90% of textbook sales in the US. The industry is already there. Steve Jobs was clearly not the only one out there employing the reality distortion field. You really have a way of warping everything into the Apple-hating/Google-deifying fantasy world you seem to live in.

32. RazaAsad

Posts: 100; Member since: Nov 24, 2011

Well said.

34. E.N.

Posts: 2610; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

I put it beyond any of you guys to look anything at anything Apple-related objectively. You guys spend all your time praising customizability and options and when there's a good option like the ibooks 2 stuff, you guys shut it down. Apple is not demanding anyone to do anything. This is an option that publishers can choose to participate or ignore. If major book companies already have their specific ebook readers, why can't Apple come up with their own. You said yourself that its eye catchy and more fluid, which is a great reason! There is a good reason though, for the industry to consider. The major difference between ibooks2 and other options is that there's a single place to get access to many textbooks from many different publishers. And if this was such a terrible idea, why have some of the major publishers already signed on?

38. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

EN, u did not read the article or the comments apparently. way to blind post. 1) if you publish with apple books, by their publishing agreement, you can not publish anywhere else or they will sue u. 2) not a single publishing house has declared they have signed on.

39. E.N.

Posts: 2610; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

Not really. I'm not a fan of ebooks and online textbooks, but I'm not going to knock on it just because Apple is doing it. 1. We don't know the exact details of that yet. And this is most likely referring to making an identical version on another platform (probably protection against Android when it finally follows to join in). They don't want the publishers using their software to make the books and then port it over to Android. I think what is saying is that if you're going to make it for another platform, make it different version not using our tools. Also, they don't want publishers using their tools and then use the ibook textbook and turn it into their own personal ebook for their website or something. I could be wrong though, but that's what I think is going on. I don't blame them either, their design and interactivity is really unique. 2. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill and Pearson. These are three of the largest publishers in the US

41. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

"Or at least when it comes to high school books as McGraw-Hill, like other publishers, has not announced whether it will distribute college textbooks through the iBooks 2 platform" wow, that was hard to research. :)

42. E.N.

Posts: 2610; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

"For this latest effort, Apple partnered with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill and Pearson, three of the largest textbook publishers in the country, to sell educational titles in the iBookstore starting at $14.99." - washington post "The aim of the iBooks Author app is to make it easy to get these impressive multimedia elements....- whether you're a self-publisher looking to write your first book...or a publishing powerhouse like the textbook trifecta of McGraw-Hill, Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt." - LA Times "The company's partnered (initially) with textbook makers Pearson, McGraw Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, as the trio are responsible for 90 percent of all textbooks sold -- as well as DK and the E.O. Wilson Foundation" - Engadget

37. Immolate

Posts: 310; Member since: Jun 17, 2011

Completely agree. If publishers agree to handcuff themselves to a proprietary standard that doesn't work on most tablets, Apple will have won a great victory on the road to losing the war. The wonder of private enterprise is that it abhors a vacuum. If you have to get a tablet priced at twice the market rate to purchase a specific textbook, you'll either find a useful alternative, or you'll pirate the textbook in a format that works on your less-expensive tablet. Publishers who commit to open standards will make money, publishers who do not will lose it. The smart publishers will eventually take the market away. That is how it should be. No company, no matter how wealthy, should be able permitted to dictate terms to its customers. Trust me, we won't permit it.

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.

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

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

6. ZEUS.the.thunder.god unregistered

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

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.

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.

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