85 Comments

Summary:

Apple’s new textbook offering and book-authoring software are attractive, and the idea of digital textbooks makes sense, but they are both locked to Apple’s walled-garden ecosystem. That may be fine for music and movies and games like Angry Birds, but is it appropriate for educational material?

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Apple’s launch of a new suite of textbook-related services for the iPad is being widely celebrated, and with good reason. The ability to have beautiful, interactive and easy to use e-books on the tablet makes a huge amount of sense — as startups like Inkling have been arguing for a while — and Apple’s new book-authoring software could open publishing to a much broader market. But as usual, all this great design requires a major tradeoff: namely, that schools and publishers agree to be locked inside Apple’s walled-garden ecosystem. That might be fine for music and movies and games like Angry Birds, but is that really appropriate for educational material?

My GigaOM colleague Darrell Etherington has written about both the launch of the new iBooks2 — which includes thousands of interactive textbooks from some of the publishing industry’s major players, such as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and McGraw-Hill, for $14.99 or less — and about the new book-authoring software Apple also launched on Thursday, called iBook Author. The latter allows for drag-and-drop creation of books, including embedded Keynote presentations, videos and other interactive features. And Erica Ogg of GigaOM has written about what this evolution of the book means, in terms of how that interactivity can improve textbooks.

Digital textbooks have benefits, but should Apple own them?

There’s no question that digital books have plenty of benefits: Not only can students carry more of them in electronic form, but they can also be distributed more cheaply (one of the reasons why publishers are likely willing to accept a much lower price point) and they can be updated if the information changes — something that’s impossible with printed textbooks. Plus, Apple’s books have 3-D interactive illustrations and the ability to create study notes automatically, and the launch of an expanded iTunes U allows teachers to connect their curriculum directly to those digital textbooks in interesting ways.

But where do these new, fantastically interactive books live? Only on iOS devices like the iPad, of course. Although the new iBooks software Apple launched appears to be based on the open ePub standard for e-books, it has enough proprietary tweaks in it that it likely won’t be compatible in either direction (at least not without a lot of effort). Once you create a book using the publishing software, you can save it as a PDF and send it to someone — but if you want to sell it, the end-user licence Apple makes you sign (or click on) says you can only sell it through the Apple iTunes store. Even the usually-supportive Apple blogger John Gruber of Daring Fireball says this is “Apple at its worst.”

The same thing goes for the textbooks that are going to be supplied by Houghton Mifflin and McGraw-Hill for $14.99 or less per copy: They will only live on iPads, which cost $500 or so each — unless Apple plans to offer some kind of educational bulk discount or special version of the device, the way it did with the original iMacs, but there was no word about that kind of program in Thursday’s announcement.

Do we want to give Apple control over the curriculum?

As one writer with some experience in the educational system pointed out at Cnet, as appealing as it might be, the kind of cost and investment involved in rolling out digital textbooks would be beyond the ability of most schools, even if they were to somehow land a major educational grant for such a purchase. And if a school buys books in bulk, according to a Wired magazine description of the program, they would have to repurchase new versions of all those textbooks for every new school year.

But the biggest criticism of Apple’s attempt to co-opt the educational system doesn’t have anything to do with costs: If its digital textbooks became the standard in schools, it would commit those institutions to a much broader — and theoretically much more dangerous — relationship with a technology provider than we have ever seen. Apple’s iMacs may have made their way into every school, but they didn’t control a key part of the curriculum. Every textbook would effectively have to be approved by Apple, and the software that controlled them would belong to Apple alone.

It’s possible Apple is planning to open up its new iBook textbooks, either by embracing the ePub standard or making it easy to move texts out of its system and into another, so iBooks can live alongside Inkling textbooks or CourseSmart books or Kno books — but if it’s planning to do that, we didn’t hear anything about it on Thursday. All we heard was how Apple wants to do the same thing to the textbook market as it has done to recorded music and mobile gaming: that is, own and control it.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr users Giuseppe Bognanni and Jeremy Mates

  1. Public school systems should avoid iBooks *at all costs* until Apple fixes these problems. You can’t hand control and approval of most educational materials to any private company. The format it uses should be open source and that absurd clause must be removed from iBooks Author’s EULA.

    Apple can easily win this market by continuing to produce awesome, highly-usable software and devices. There’s no reason for these stupid legal grabs and walled garden infrastructure.

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    1. I agree, Marc. Thanks for the comment.

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      1. Why don’t you write an article whining about Amazon’s walled garden with the proprietary Kindle ebook format?

        Funny how we never see articles warning about how we can’t open our Kindle books in the iBooks app or export them to a Nook.

        “Walled garden” is the argument of lazy thinkers. You might as well give up your Wiis, your Xboxes, your Playstations, your Windows-only games, your Nespresso machines that only take Nespresso coffee cartridges.

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      2. Mr Lava –

        If Amazon is a “walled garden” then Apple is a Fort Knox as far as im concerned.

        Ibooks only work on IOS. This is far worse than kindle ebooks that can be accessed on most other ecosystems.

        Apple might make great products, but i loath them for their totalitarian ecosystem and attitude.

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    2. Daniel Eran Dilger Thursday, January 19, 2012

      Is there no one on this entire website who is aware of the current mess we have in education? At this point, handing the whole thing to the Microsoft of 1998 would be an improvement.

      Also puzzling why people who hate Apple keep repeating this “walled garden” line when they didn’t seem to have any problem with Microsoft and Intel owning PCs over the past 20 years, or Google owning web search for the last ten, something that has dumbed down Internet journalism (with its click bait business model) and causes more issues than any possible threat related to Apple providing educators with free tools that work.

      Also note that Amazon recently floated out a very similar textbook solution without providing good or free authoring tools and without providing good or low cost hardware, and nobody flipped out on this level.

      Perhaps this message board of irate commenters can form a socialist supreme soviet and decree that Apple’s resources be confiscated and devoted instead toward the production of iPad knock-offs from China running “free” software from Google. Would that destroy the walls and the garden sufficiently to cause all you Apple foeboys to settle down?

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      1. They forget how Texas controls the textbook market because of the costs involved in print production. The forget how the publishers create garbage, and charge $80 or $100 a copy.

        The publishers also forgot that outsourcing development to India and such, makes the job of undercutting publishers completely feasible.

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      2. +1

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      3. Douglas Crets Friday, January 20, 2012

        Agree. I have made some points about this on my Google+ page. People are approaching this problem from a hardware or a programmer / developer’s perspective. Maybe you’d like to listen to my rant about how the issue is not about how the curriculum is provided, it’s about how we can continue to keep teachers engaged with student learning: https://plus.google.com/110075254641670883556/posts/LCZgiFsW3EJ

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      4. Great post Daniel – my sentiments exactly!

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      5. Interesting perspective on “socialist supreme soviet” where you only get one choice, rather than an open system where people have to compete solely on the basis of having good products.

        No one suggested that Apple’s resources be confiscated and distributed for free. If that is what you got from the article, you completely missed the point.

        Apple “supports” epub, but that is not the format they are promoting. They create iAuthor, but require a version of their OS that someone who purchased a Mac less than one year ago would not have received. These are completely artificial limitations put in place to intentionally stifle fair and open competition, and to force people into buying an upgrade they don’t really need.

        If you honestly believe that Apple’s actions are fair, open, and honest business practice, you really don’t understand how competition is actually supposed to work in a free market.

        Apple does, mostly, make good products. That should be sufficient for them to compete. If not, then that is what the market dictates.

        I fail to see the relevance of your attack on low cost devices running Android, short of it being your own “Google foeboy” nature.

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  2. Didn’t we(humans) try that before
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Library_of_Alexandria

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  3. I would think that most publishers will create versions of their books for other e-book readers also. It will just be more difficult without the Apple software.

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    1. Yeah, the book industry will embrace digital. Apple sets the trend, but someone else could bring in the masses. Kindle, Nook, Droiders of all hues, are you listening ?

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      1. Cheese, this is exactly what will happen so to me why would you get your panties in a bunch at Apple for being the 800lb Gorilla that can afford to throw its weight around to get the ball rolling on this new paradigm?

        Dont look the Appled gift horse in the mouth, just wait for the inevitable bandwagon jumping on!

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      2. Right!

        So some wonderful corporation will soon bring us this level of authoring tools with an integrated publishing platform so we can all use it for free at their expense ? ? ?

        Maybe Google will build us a free version with embedded advertising that makes them billions and everyone else nothing ? A solution like the Android based Kindle Fire which is so standardized and open that you can’t even read their books on another Android reading platform like Nook!

        Nothing is free at this level of software effort.

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  4. Zzzzzzzz wall garden bla bla bla… until someone else can come up with a better ideal let APple improve society (and let Samsung copy them)

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    1. Ignorance is bliss

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      1. Ignorance is not bothering to make your case yet still thinking you have added something to the conversation!

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  5. Yup – the open source crowd, state school boards, traditional publishers are doing such a terrific job with digital tech.

    Sorry, Charlie – just the usual what-if whine. Meanwhile, Apple will charge ahead producing successful products as judged by the marketplace – not pundits.

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    1. Thanks, but you didn’t answer the question. Should Apple have that much control over such a key part of the educational system just because the marketplace thinks it is better?

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      1. They wouldn’t have that control if others would step up to the plate, invest the time, energy & resources to also produce a “free” creation tool and a massive, easy-to-use distribution system.

        You’re (and Dan Gillmor) beef shouldn’t be with Apple, it’s producing in spades. Your beef should be with all the other less creative slackers out there that aren’t moving the space forward. Where’s Amazon, where’s Google, where’s Microsoft, where’s Adobe, where’s the publishing houses? Absent without leave.

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      2. If not Apple, then no company should provide ebooks for education? It sounds like you’re suggesting that any company that provides ebooks for education must be state owned?

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      3. Mathew,

        Apple will transform education by setting the new std; everyone else will copy them; Apple will not have that “much contr

        Apple leads, controls for quality, sets the stds. Google, Amazon, News Corp. will follow and compete.

        What’s wrong with that? Nothing but the truth.

        You’re interest in link bait leads you to miss adding something intelligent to the conversation.

        Stop doing link bait. Do smart.

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      4. What are you talking about!

        “Should Apple have that much control over such a key part of the educational system just because the marketplace thinks it is better?”

        They have just put the product out!

        As of yet they have absolutely no control over any such imagined marketplace.

        Bring on the competition.

        Let the winner earn such control.

        That the way the marketplace works.

        Now if Apple is a big winner that not fair!

        But where have you been defending against the outrageous over priced walled garden traditional publishers have been maintaining for years.

        Thats right they don’t garner such easy link bait ?

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      5. that ‘much control’?

        Although Apple has set the std model, Msft-Nokia, Google-Moto, Amazon, and Samsung will copy and follow. They’re very good at that – see Android Takes Over the World, for example.

        What’s wrong with being the ‘killee’ so that you and everyone else can write ‘iBooks Killer’ articles?

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    2. Hi Matthew,

      I am a recovering Appleholic from years ago.

      Since transitioning to a more open source ecosystem, I can safely say with no regrets, that Apple’s highly concentrated vertical integration practices should be left far from controlling our educational accessibilities.

      Education should be open as possible. Students learn by involving themselves into what are uncharted waters to them. Accessibility to such a vast scope of documented facts and opinions of every aspect, is what shapes our future advances, findings, creations and structures. Apple’s DNA has always been control. Do as we say and when we say. Is this what we want implemented into our valued educational scholastics? People are so in love with Apple’s products, that they don’t stop to think whether they should be in this case. Apple has already started creating the issue that if you don’t own their product, you will have limitations due to Apple’s dominating presence and their proprietary offerings within schools or businesses.

      Consequently, this has the adverse effect and creates the ultimate limitation due to only having access to Apple’s offerings. We all know that an open source should be better left in place under these circumstances.

      Today’s generation has created a monster that us older generation left for dead because of Apple’s wish to control our every experience.

      John B.

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      1. It’s not open now, Texas pretty much controls the textbook industry and what gets into textbooks and curriculum. Even though Apple is an integrated system, it might just offer more variety.

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      2. Apple does not control any major experiences. They are a strong but proportionately small player in the music, mobile phone and computer marketplaces.

        Microsoft and Google own and control much larger portions of the computing experience within the areas that they dominate.

        You just don’t like Apple and that is your prerogative.

        But why do Apple haters feel such a driving need to share their dislike for Apple with the rest of us!

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    3. It’s not a what-if line. Textbooks do not HAVE to be digital. Digital is a “nice to have.” And as long as it’s a “nice to have,” our tax-dollar-financed public schools should not be handing over exclusive control and approval of educational materials to any company…Apple, Amazon, or any other company. Public schools shouldn’t be helping any company “lock up” knowledge.

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  6. thanks for the heaping dose of knee jerk paranoia.

    just like iTunes, there will competing alternatives from other companies, both hardware and software. in a year or two, or can’t you wait?

    most likely they will all be some kind of proprietary package deal too. you probably don’t know anything about the huge market for business software, but that is typically how it works there. e.g., if you are set up with Oracle’s, it is not readily interchangable with Microsoft’s competing software/services.

    Apple has a big advantage as first to market with a well done product. but it will not translate into a monopoly. calm down.

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    1. I’m not saying it will be a monopoly, I’m just saying that giving Apple that much control over such a key element of the educational system raises some questions — more so than with business software. Thanks for the comment though.

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      1. Apple will control Apple’s system. Google will clone, so will Amazon, and Microsoft.

        That’s all that’s gonna happen. Apple invented a breakthrough in education and you’re whining about an imagined Apple control.

        Come back in 2 years and see how much control they have.

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      2. Maybe you could put off writing this panic post until such time that any imagined Apple control actually starts to materialize!

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    2. The difference is that Apple doesn’t claim exclusive seller’s rights whenever somebody uses Garageband.

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      1. GarageBand isn’t a free app.

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      2. GarageBand is effectively free. It’s $5. GarageBand is a complementary loss leader for the profitable iPad.

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  7. The biggest threat to textbook education isn’t Apple, it’s the Texas State Board of Education, who pretty much has a monopoly on textbook content. That’s a much bigger concern than monopoly of textbook distribution. If Apple can disrupt Texas control on content I’ll be happy. I’ve got issues with Apple, but I trust them more than I do Texas.

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    1. Exactly – Most people don’t realize this.

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  8. Matthew, the answer is simple: No walled garden should be built around any product related education.

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    1. You mean!

      Other than all the over priced monopolies that presently rob the educational system.

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  9. Matthew, never mind the insults, your concern is reasonable.

    What’s needed is software that makes it easy (as easy as possible, anyhow) to create to create beautiful, interactive book-like web applications usable through any modern browser. (Anyone who doubts such applications are possible hasn’t been paying attention to the rapid progress of frameworks like Ext JS and Sencha Touch. Note that local storage can be used to mitigate problems with network connectivity.) What’s also needed is an online marketplace or marketplaces through which authors can sell such works, with or without sponsorship by conventional publishers.

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    1. If pigs had wings they would fly!

      The magic free solution is a pipe dream.

      To be realistic major software efforts cost serious money!

      Companies compete and if we like their products we buy them with cash or our eyeball advertising attention.

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      1. It appears that I have touched a nerve with one of my other posts.

        The problem as I see it, is that Apple is a 30 year old company that almost went belly up. It is a company that has not wavered from their direction even today. They believe in proprietary ownership which exceeds the normality of other companie’s governing. Apple does not like third party unless it meets their standard and reels in some sort of financial concession and then charge it back to customers at a premium rate perspectively. It was Steve Jobs and only Steve Jobs that took his eloquent marketing persona and leveraged it to create hype.
        Apple is all about profits. They don’t care how they make it nor who suffers to get it. Apple is only concerned about putting as many ipads into as many hands they can. What better way to do this than take advantage of the current trendsetters which is predominantly high school and college age groups?

        The arguments of Microsoft, IBM or other’s indigenous software offerings Vs Apple are different. While each company thrives on trying to remain proprietary to their ecosystem, they are at least “Open” to less control and the allowance of third party offerings to retain free trade of information or programs.

        Apple is not. Nothing gets to Apple’s consumers unless Apple approves them and it is done through the paid itunes or ibooks reference. Have we not witnessed enough denials of apps or programs from Apple? I will ask again. Is this how you want our education?

        I will also return the favor and ask why Apple supporters feel compelled to shove Apple’s controlled environment down our throats. We lived it and supported it until we realized their MO. This company has gone from almost extinction to getting very rich in a short time off of consumers that think with their lower extremities.

        People need to stop viewing these pretty little Apple things as God’s gift. They are not out to save education. They want students to use ipads. That is it. If people want to save the literature of education, write to congress on the problem with Texas. Don’t salivate over another win for Apple. Because this leads to a loss for consumers wishing to have choice through open access.

        John B.

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  10. People complain about Apple’s walled gardens all the time citing “choice” as the major reason. But this is a choice… it’s one more choice that we didn’t have yesterday. Without Apple we would have less choice. Apple is creating a lot of free tools and an eco-system because they want to make money and they do that from the hardware. I think it doesn’t matter where the textbooks come from as long as they are factual and better than the ones that came before. And if someone wants to take them on then they should step up to the plate and make new textbooks too (for $15 a piece or less). They are not a not-for-profit company and those companies are clearly failing. It’s time to let the private sector do what America won’t give it’s “social sector” the power to do. American’s won’t go for a European styled school reform so it will either continue on in its zombie form or private will take the lead.

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    1. Sure they’re not a non-profit org but this is just going too far. What do you think of this comment from Daring Fireball? I think it’s valid: “Apple, in this EULA, is claiming a right not just to its software, but to its software’s output. It’s akin to Microsoft trying to restrict what people can do with Word documents, or Adobe declaring that if you use Photoshop to export a JPEG, you can’t freely sell it to Getty. As far as I know, in the consumer software industry, this practice is unprecedented.”

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      1. Gruber has another post with further thoughts – And a concession that without the restriction, it could be used as an authoring tool for Amazon or Google. And, it’s a free tool vs paid so the same rules don’t necessarily apply.

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    2. Restrictions are Choice Sunday, January 22, 2012

      “Without Apple we would have less choice.”

      Orwell rolls in his grave.

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  11. No, we don’t. I have zero issue with Apple taking their cut of any book, including textbooks, that are sold via the App Store. The book seller is taking advantage of the visibility, distribution and commerce features of the Store, so that’s fine.

    What’s beyond the pale for me is the insistence that simply by using Author to make book I cannot sell it elsewhere. Look a couple of days ago a http://gigaom.com/2012/01/16/ratcliff-e-books/ – those guys might want to use Author to make books that look great on the iPad and sell them via the store they already have setup. Yet the EULA prohibits that. Insanity.

    As for the “Well Author is FREEEE!!!” cry that I’ve already heard, there’s an easy solution. Charge for a version of Author that eliminates the App Store restriction. Of course that revenue would be microscopic to Apple.

    What they should do is allow Author produced titles to be sold anywhere. The more titles out there in various places the more people are incented to get an iPad because of all the cool, innovative content out there that it can use.

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    1. I agree, Rick — that requirement seems totally over the top. And yet Apple routinely does that kind of thing and gets away with it.

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    2. Apple’s model here is to give out the authoring tool for free and make money on sales from textbooks. There are probably competing tools and models which license the tool for an upfront revenue. IMO, both models are valid. If the publisher doesn’t like Apple’s model, they won’t use Apple tools… End of the day there other tools and mechanisms to publish and deliver content (even to the iPad). This is just one option…

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    3. Ok, how about a grand ($1k) or the same price as InDesign – There’s a lot of expensive authoring tools out there. Would you pay?

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    4. Then simply don’t use Apple’s Author.

      Build your own software that outputs to HTML5/CSS3/JS.

      Apple is not a charity!

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    5. If you make your educational book free it is distributed for free!

      Free, easy to use, tool leading to a large pool of free educational material.

      This helps Apple subsidize the sale of iPads to educational institutions because the price of the iPad is now offset by the free educational content.

      That is the real Apple modus-operandi at play here.

      Just like free Google Search helps sell Google’s advertising products.

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  12. No, don’t trust controlling, paranoid, bitter, worm-filled Apple. Those are not the values that children should be taught.

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  13. So you’re saying that you love the tools that Apple provides, love the output of the tools, but don’t want Apple to control either. Am I the only one seeing a contradiction here? What exactly would be a better solution in your opinion? Apple doing awesome stuff and giving it away for free? Even the government doesn’t do that.

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    1. —-” Apple doing awesome stuff and giving it away for free? Even the government doesn’t do that.”—-

      Apple has excelled in taking something that is free and getting people to pay for it through their ecosystem. Itunes is a fine example. So, Apple is not giving anything away for free. In many cases, the schools are including ipads and macs into the cost of tuition. I assure you Apple is getting paid handsomely for having a presence in the age group that is their largest fan group. With this addition of promotional education, students will have to pay Apple for everything offered. Is this considered free?

      Apple cares nothing of education. They want their 71% profit on every product that goes out the door. What better way than leveraging the trend within collegiate enterprises?

      I left the tentacles of Apple because I felt limited in what I needed or wanted to have access to. Students do not need this kind of control when trying to obtain valued information that may reside outside of Apple’s neighborhood.

      John B.

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  14. we can debate all we want but at the end of the day the users (consumers and producers) of this new platform will really tell if the Apple introduced model is restrictive or revolutionary… End of the day, if the consumers of the “iTextbooks” don’t like this approach, then it won’t work.

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  15. Mathew, I find the title of your post hilarious. I’ve done quite of bit of work over the past few years examining the public school textbook scene in the United States. The premise that the current textbook industry is open and competitive is false. The textbook certification process and policies in the various states is corrupt and has resulted in a handful of publishers owning the market with very little advance in the quality of material being presented. Maybe for better digital textbook standards to come about, we first need someone like Apple to demonstrate how to do it right in a controlled fashion. Apple isn’t controlling the industry — they take their percentage (for providing distribution to the masses) just like the mess of middlemen currently do in the textbook publishing and distribution business. The difference is now kids have a fighting chance to get higher quality updated content at an affordable price.

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    1. well said…

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    2. That’s a fair point, Michael — and I certainly wouldn’t argue that the current situation is a paradise for schools by any means. I would just like to see more openness than Apple is traditionally known for, that’s all. Thanks for the comment.

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  16. If someone makes a better mousetrap, people will buy it. If Apple’s new ibook innovations make teaching and learning something exciting, it is a good thing. It could well save the USA’s future which is lagging in all educational areas.

    If you and others are are concerned about Apple owning this new market – and they should because they are creating it – I suggest you encourage other people to do something even better than Apple did.

    Let others do the tremendous work and come out with their own products! They too can do the groundwork and partner up with the publishers. Then we can let the market decide, like it’s doing here.

    If you want open source, create it. This work belongs to Apple. They created it. Encourage others to innovate instead of carping at Apple’s success.

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  17. As it is now, Apple doesn’t have to review the books. You can create and distribute your own version without going through the iBookstore. As long as you do it free according to the EULA. Apple doesn’t have a say on the content of the books but the books only work on iPad. That’s the key issue. Classes will have to go full iPad.

    Bear in mind that right now the model is also closed and more perverse. Schools have to adhere to one of three or four options when choosing textbooks for the kids, prices are fixed by the publishing houses and there’s plenty of commissions and perks involved for the decision makers at schools. This is system might not be ideal if you don’t want a diverse hardware in your class but it’s by far better than the actual one.

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  18. Wilhelm Reuch Friday, January 20, 2012

    No content is locked in. Only the publishing format created by Apples free tool.

    You don’t have to rewrite anything. Feel free to publish your content in other manufacturers formats using their tools.

    Apple don’t want Amazon, Samsung, Google or any other copycat to get a free ride. It is as simple as that. It is no big deal except for the usual moaners – but when was the last time they created anything?

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  19. Paul Zammit  Friday, January 20, 2012

    Seems like the big concern is this EULA part, and thus the massive “Walled-garden” comments happening.

    Seems like some of you have a wrong perception on this term. It’s also relatively simple to avoid this term.

    If I’m an author of a textbook, and I want to publish my book in other forms, be it printed or other digital forms – and SELL it – it would be relatively simple. I just stay away from iBook Author.

    Apple is just giving people easy access to these fantastic tools and have them distributed easily, and painlessly to everybody. The only drawback is that you need to own an iPad. If you want to stay with the “old” fashioned textbook format – or any other free means – you are free to do so.

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  20. I have to admit that Ingram is right on this. It would be disastrous for a corporation, especially one like Apple, to gain too much control in this area.

    Apple fans and apologists are entitled to defend Apple against points like those made in this blog post, but you have to ask yourself — what if you’ve chosen the wrong side? History is littered with folks who chose the wrong side and didn’t even know it. Think hard about that…

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    1. There is no way Apple will have too much control.

      Apple’s only leading the way to much better education,

      Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and open source will clone and improve.

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  21. Publishers can choose to not bother with Apple at all, why are they participating, did they not read the EULA, temporary insanity maybe? Or maybe the pros outweigh the cons?

    Apple provides a free authoring tool with sale restrictions for their platform, any alternative software that can create compatible output is years away. Since iBooks Author is free, if another company, say Adobe wants to make a competing authoring tool, they can sell it if only there were competing publishing platforms, where paying for the authoring tool where the end product can be sold anywhere makes sense. It feels like while other giants were sleeping, Apple toiled away, and it looks like they could be successful with this.

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  22. Don Synstelien Friday, January 20, 2012

    ON that last paragraph you forgot to include the last line: “…and at the same time, make it easier, cheaper and more convenient for the end user than ever before. Not only that, but we heard how Apple will also empower a host of teachers and indie publishers, to whom this kind of publishing has never been readily available. Just imagine, a grade school teacher now has the power to self publish and reach tens of millions of students. It’s almost as if the idea of what being a teacher means has been reinvented”

    But you probably didn’t think about that.

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    1. I did think about that, Don — and it is beneficial to have that, no question. I am just concerned about concentrating too much power in one provider’s hands, that’s all. Thanks for the comment.

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  23. The point of Apple getting in the text book business is supposed to be to help out with the issue of ironing out the platform in which digital text books could be distributed. However there is already a pretty universally accepted document format that is rich in features – PDF. I don’t like the thought of one company dominating the distribution of anything. Apple is looking to get into this market for the money and distributing their hardware/software. Isn’t the bottom line here that the content makers want to somehow protect their content? I am not sure this is entirely possible in any case. If our eyes can see something it can be copied one way or another.

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  24. No one should have control over educational materials, not Apple, not publishers, not the states, not the federal government! Text books should be created by the masses using a Wikipedia like open editing system where anyone can contribute whatever they want. The books themselves are editable using the most democratic of editors (a text editor) using LaTex (ePUB supports DRM which is EVIL). Once the masses vote that the text book is complete it should then be published to BitTorrent or MegaUpload (once the Feds unlock it) so it can be freely downloaded by all.

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    1. My open/close Sarcasm tags didn’t show up so, if you can’t detect it, I’m not serious!

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  25. Daniel Bourdeau Friday, January 20, 2012

    I generally agree with the author and will take will assume the school textbook industry probably won’t shift to an Ipad based digital format. But, the one thing I haven’t heard anyone question is the durability of the Ipad? I don’t own one, so I can’t comment, but can you drop it? I can’t count all the times I have dropped my backpack full of books or my cell phone (I have lots of friends with smartphones that have busted screens). Does it make sense to give a bunch of 10-18 year olds a $500 device that isn’t bulletproof? What about keeping them charged during class?

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  26. it would be better if they opened it up. i for one dont use apple products and probably never will but if apple actually had good intentions they would open it up so that all students could benefit from it not just people who buy their products.

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  27. JoshMullineaux Friday, January 20, 2012

    Having spent a ton of time on campuses lately and interacting with professors, department heads, etc, the vast majority of students use a laptop or school provided computer. While this may change in the coming years if apple can get the cost of the iPad down to competitive levels, having the books only available on IOS devices is extremely limiting and not that beneficial to the people that matter the most, the students themselves. I will say however that it’s great to see someone like apple come in and compete with Amazon and draw a bunch more attention to the problems that exist in education. There are a ton of opportunities for start-ups here and hopefully we will continue to innovate to push the price of education down, increase availability of a great education to more people, and improve the effectiveness in the way we teach using innovative tools and technology.

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  28. Wow you just touched an Apple fan’s nerve and you were not even trying. I agree with you completely, in its current form I do not like what they are trying to do.

    For the Fan’s

    Apple backers (Fan’s) you have to admit that author has a valid point of not letting any one entity have control to something so important. If you think it is cheap then you are wrong, knowing apple and their business model you will be eventually tied into the apple network of devices which do not come cheap. Even before you realize this you will be shelling out (implicitly and explicitly) much more than the obvious $14.99 that is being projected. You have no clue on how business works and why it is not cheap to go that route. Anyone who doesn’t see this is plainly speaking a fanboy.

    Others who keep repeating that Texas is controlling the current book industry are missing the point that you are just replacing one entity which is controlling the books (as you say) with another entity which will have even more control on the books and its distribution and consumption.

    Some others who claim choice are even farther removed from reality and tend to think Apple as a choice. You are forgetting that choice is having the ability to get the same content across different devices (or mediums) and not just one Apple world.

    Apple is trying to create an eco system based on education to eventually drive its profits. You can’t criticize them for trying that since they are a for profit entity and that is what they do. But as a consumer and as a community your responsibility lies in trying to make sure that you are always in a position of controlling the choice, making sure no private entity is ever in control of any thing that should be open. This becomes even more important when it comes to our basic needs as a community, in this case education the most basic human need in these times. So stop thinking like a fan for a second and start thinking what it means to you eventually.

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  29. I think it is interesting that many are “concerned” about Apple taking on iBooks when they currently are the only company out there with a decent tablet.

    None of the current Android offerings even begin to approach the iPad and the Kindle Fire is just running Android also.

    At least Apple is trying to do something about the abysmal state of our educational system. And if they make a dollar in the process, so what? The publishers do.

    Some of you need to get over your Apple “issues” and look at the bigger picture. Education in the country needs fixed. At least someone is trying to do something.

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  30. All you need to do is get iPad, jailbreak it, then buy whatever book you want from whatever source you want. Suck it up, Apple!!

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  31. Wayne J. Cosshall Friday, January 20, 2012

    Apple’s application is a good one. As a writer/publisher my only concern is that the program only supports iBooks. Personally I would love for someone to produce an application that does similar things but then can output to Kindle8 as well as iBooks format. It will come. Scrivener, for example, already does this for non-interactive books and its a great solution for normal texts. Someone, perhaps Adobe, probably some one-person show, will produce it and everyone can relax.

    There are so many walled gardens in the tech world, Amazon’s MOBI for example. We just get on with it. Eventually tools come that sit above the specific file formats, like Photoshop, that can read most and output to most.

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    1. epub 3 will be supported by all major distributors this year and it support, from what I’ve read, just about everything apple’s new tools support. Apple isn’t coming out with anything truly new, like usual, they are just making it sound that way while the rest of the industry follows standards and those often take a little longer for everyone to follow and support.

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  32. Public money should not be spent on Apples closed, censored, private controlled by Apple

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  33. “Do we want textbooks to live in Apple’s walled garden?”

    NO!!!!!!!! HELL NO!!!!!!

    We need more open textbook resources that are freely available to all students. Something more like Wikipedia for text books. Or textbooks that are build on free & open standards like epub & HTML5, etc. .

    Using iBooks Author = WORST IDEA EVER!!!! You have to be brain dead to walk into that trap!

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  34. One word: Texas.

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    1. One trait: Dillusional.

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  35. 28 years ago, alone, I launched a project to develop a free/libre
    operating system, GNU. People said such a large project could never
    be finished, but the kernel Linux completed the GNU system less than a
    decade. See gnu.org.

    Software programs do practical jobs, and the users deserve to control
    them. They deserve four specific freedoms: to use the program as they
    wish, to study and change it in the form best suited for such work, to
    redistribute copies, and to distribute copies of modified versions. A
    work that gives you these four freedoms is free/libre. Textbooks do a
    practical job too, so their users deserve the same freedoms.

    The job of writing a free/libre replacement curriculum, inviting
    teachers and others to help, is far less daunting than the one I
    started in January 1984. Don’t give up in advance — start writing!

    Neither Microsoft nor Apple nor anyone else should have control over
    our software. Neither Amazon nor Apple nor anyone else should control
    our textbooks.

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