Apple announces new iPad textbook experience with iBooks 2

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On Thursday Apple’s SVP of worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller, took the stage to talk about education and announced Apple’s ambitious plan to reinvent the textbook. That plan includes iBooks 2, which Schiller called a “new textbook experience for the iPad.”

Here’s how it works, according to Roger Rosner, Apple’s VP of productivity software: Textbooks appear on the shelf, and then you tap to launch. The books occupy the full screen and can be paired with embedded video content and introductory movies. Multitouch is used to navigate textbook pages and can also help manipulate integrated 3-D models for biology books, for example. These books definitely go well beyond static text and even most media-rich e-books that we have seen to date.

Rotating books let you focus on text, and there are built-in, linked glossaries and tablets of content to make navigation a snap, plus everything’s searchable. It looks like Al Gore’s Our Choice, which we covered in depth at launch.

Textbooks in iBooks 2 also incorporate highlighting, note-taking and interactive Q&A sections at the end of each chapter, which also provide immediate feedback: No more hunting for a key in a separate book or appendix to see how you did. Notes and highlights are automatically turned into flash cards for study purposes. In short, it looks like Apple has taken a lot of the best aspects of services like Inkling and Kno and integrated them into its own product.

The new textbooks reside in a dedicated iBookstore category and will offer free samples before you buy. The iBooks 2 app is free, and it is available on Thursday via the App Store. Textbooks will be priced at $14.99 or less and will initially be aimed at the high school market. That’s some seriously competitive pricing, and Apple’s initial partners are Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which together are responsible for 90 percent of textbooks available, according to Schiller.

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