iPads in Education

Innovating education with technology.

Evaluating Apple's Foray into the Textbook Market

Apple today announced the new version of IBooks aimed at revolutionizing the way we distribute content in schools. According to Apple, there are currently 1.5 million iPads being used in schools throughout the USA and the new version of iBooks is being created as a mechanism for delivering interactive textbooks to those users. With the aid of a free authoring program, publishers and individuals will be able to easily create educational content for distribution through the iTunes store.

The textbooks will have a ceiling price of $15, potentially saving buyers hundreds of dollars over traditional textbooks. According to Apple, schools will be able to buy the books for its students and issue redemption codes for students to download them. 


iBooks Author

Apple has announced iBooks Author, an OS X application for creating any type of ebook. A range of templates are available to get you started. Authors fill in text, video, audio, keynote slides and more - simply dropping them into place. iBooks Author is available free download in the Mac App Store


You can see the full Apple presentation here...

You can see a detailed look at the new interactive functionality of...


What's Missing?

It would have been nice to see some additional features...

- The fact that the textbooks only work on iPads is a serious drawback. I can only imagine that they will be expanded to other platforms in the future - especially MacBooks and Air.

- One important trend that is developing is "social reading" - the ability to connect with other readers of the book. Readers can post comments, share annotations, ask questions and get answers. Your "network" can be limited to your teacher and immediate classmates or open to any of your online friends. The addition of social networking features to iBooks would have been a real boon for education.

- I didn't notice any mention of translations or the ability to adjust reading levels, although that might have been ambitious for a first release.

- Am I the only one that feels a little uncomfortable with the thought that Apple will have control and approval rights over any and all textbooks that become available through the iTunes store?


What's Disturbing?

According to their user agreement, anything created in Apple's iBook Author software can only be sold through Apple's iTunes store. Apple owns the rights to sell it.

Every journey has to start with a single, first step... but I sense we still have a way to go.


Sam Gliksman


Twitter: @samgliksman


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Comment by David Farrar on January 26, 2012 at 8:41am

I'm personally very excited about this development.  Even if the program itself isn't perfect, it will at the very least push the digital textbook movement forward.  Just look at what the iPhone did for smartphones.  It's a very different world than it was 5 years ago.

Comment by Jeremy Dorn on January 24, 2012 at 8:39am
The EULA is an inner sting issue and one that should help highlight how much we as a society (and congress) should look at what is allowed in these things. Personally I do hope Apple gets roasted from this as its about as boneheaded as you could possibly get. iBooks Author could have been GarageBand and Podcasting all over again but for books. Actually Apple should create a "Bookcast" section and if they don't perhaps I will, I'm starting to have ideas on how to generate revenue based around for "freely" authored books.

That said if you look at it from an actual enforceable stand Apple has a point when it comes to two areas. Lets get the content ownership out of the way. Apple cannot stop you from reusing your text, video, audio, or widgets in other programs or other files. They can't make any claims of ownership to that work.

What they can do is:

1) Claim the output of their WYSIWYG to XML process. Look at the code surrounding and inserted widget the code. You should see a reference to your "main.html" file (if you used Dashcode to make the widget) and the file path to the assets folder. The main.html and the WIDGET.wdgt are yours, it's your code to do with as you will. The code around it is Apple's, they have allowed you to use it for free anywhere, but only for money if it's through iTunes. 2) The Templates are also Apple's, the images and "trade dress" (a.k.a layout) are their's and they allow you to use them terms as the XML. This covers the PDFs iBA generates.

What you lose by using iBA is the time you spent forming the book for publication in iBooks format. The "content" you inserted can be used again in say Sigil to create a ePub3 file. If there is a legal issue, begin by typing all your text in TextEdit or TextWrangler. Like the videos and audio this creates a date prior to the iBook when that content existed and was the source for both the iBA iBook and the Sigil ePub.

Just watch what the big 3 textbook companies have sourced. I'll guess that they've reused art and text assets they've been using in print for years, and will continue to use for years more. If they were going to be locked out of using that "work" in anything other then an iBooks form from here on, you wouldn't see them bringing stuff to iBooks at all.

It's still a wretched EULA and Apple's legal team should be ashamed, much like FaceBook should be constantly shamed by its successive BS EULAs. However like FaceBook, it's not going to stop people from using, in happy delusional bliss.
Comment by Paul Strauss on January 21, 2012 at 9:20am
Actually Sam, you really do bring up some great points and did not look at it from that perspective. And I'm not an expert in the publishing world but if you were to write a textbook and get say Prentice to publish it for you, don't they then "own" your textbook and can do anything they want with it? The way I'm looking at it is that Apple has just become a textbook publisher that will allow anybody to freelance for them and they will just be getting a piece of the profit if we choose to sell it. They are controlling our intellectual property the same way any other publisher would because I have to think if we had Prentice publish our work for us, they would not also allow McGraw Hill to publish the same book. But again, I could totally be wrong in how the publishing world works.
Comment by Mike Guerena on January 21, 2012 at 8:59am
You can use 3D models built into Sketchbook and embed into a book created in iBooks author. There will be a lot of time needed for putting together content. I am wondering what the free/open source market will look like. Technically you do not need to distribute through iTunes is my understanding. A link to the file on the web will open up the book in iBooks directly.
Comment by Sam Gliksman on January 20, 2012 at 11:56pm
For those of you thinking about using a VGA adapter to connect, think about buying an Apple TV for your room. It costs $100 and allows you to project wirelessly from any iPad 2 in the room. Check the prior blog posts for one that describes the process.

Paul, your comment that Apple should own the sales rights to your intellectual property because you created it with their software... So does that mean Microsoft should own any book written in Word? Should Adobe own the rights to art created in Photoshop? The fact that you use a certain tool doesn't - and shouldn't - grant the maker of that tool any exclusive rights to your intellectual property. It is, after all, the work of the author.

Having said that, the tools are great and it does open the door to easy creation of interactive content. My hope is that it will also open the door to competitive authoring products that have more reasonable end user license agreements.
Comment by Matt Grose on January 20, 2012 at 10:35pm

I am excited about the opportunities provided by the new applications, as the engagement level due to the interactivity is going to be awesome. I couldn't help but think, however, that creation is the 21st  century skill, not consumption. Reading textbooks, no matter how engaging, without attaching creation, collaboration, and creativity, is going to be "small e" engagement, not "big E Engagement" as some would put it. Don't get me wrong, I think the new iBooks/iAuthor, etc is great, but we need to make sure not to get too distracted by the shiny objects.

Comment by Bill Kujawa on January 20, 2012 at 10:09pm

Used iBooks Author and was blown away!  What a great tool for both teacher and student.  I am still looking for a way to record my iPad screen.  I would like to insert a video file into an iBook, but I do not know how to record the screen.  Does anyone know if this is possible?

Comment by Jeanette Stickel on January 20, 2012 at 4:40pm

Thank you, Paul & Julie!

I can see how much fun it would be for the kids to see their work on the big board. 

Comment by Sarah Moran on January 20, 2012 at 1:03pm

It's not that I am not excited about the announcement -- just cautiously optimistic. Our school is still a bit behind the curve where tech is concerned, but several of us are investigating the advantages and potential snags in moving to a more tech-centered approach. Even our students are not 100% behind such a move. I do see real potential for creativity coupled with more in-depth learning, though.

Comment by Julie Thomas on January 20, 2012 at 12:50pm


As Paul said, you use the VGA adapter.  We have used the VGA adapter so that each child can take a turn to share his/her work on the board.  Although it takes a little bit of time to switch between users, the children's responses when they can see their own work on the big board are great (I work with 4-5 year olds!).


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