Report: Apple's Education News Could Be A Textbook Example Of Its Growth

As Thursday approaches, more details (or rumors) are leaking out about what Apple’s education announcement will entail: opinion appears to be coalescing around a new interactive service for textbooks on Apple’s iPad tablet device.

According to a report in the WSJ, Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) is forging partnerships with educational publishers to produce the new “iTextbooks”.

Ars Technica goes one step further and describes the event as the first step in a new platform for e-book publishing on iOS — a “Garage Band” for e-books — which will work on iPad and iPhone devices, but also be compatible with other devices because it will run on the new ePub 3 standard; Apple currently supports ePub 2, which is sometimes not compatible with other e-reader platforms beyond iBookstore, depending on the extensions that publishers use.

The WSJ story further notes that Apple has been working with McGraw-Hill (NYSE: MHP) since June 2011 on an announcement. Another publisher that focuses on higher education, Cengage, is also attending the event on Thursday, but declined to comment for the article. Other publishers named in the article but not specifically in connection with the event on Thursday are Pearson (NYSE: PSO) and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Neither article had details on how these publishing deals or educational services would be structured: Apple currently takes a 30 percent cut on apps and other content that it publishes for iOS devices; will the same apply in the educational sphere when the intended “customers” are non-profit schools and students?

Whatever precise direction the announcement takes, it will be another step in how Apple is using its already-strong base in one sector — in this case, education — to expand its wider product offering, by using services to help drive more sales in its higher-margin, higher-value devices business.

As we noted last week when the event was formally announced, Apple has made a lot of inroads into educational services — not just with special discounts for students and teachers, but also in the form of iPad donations to special educational projects.