Blog Post

E-textbook veteran CourseSmart defends its turf

Apple is not the first company to introduce the idea of interactive and digital textbooks for mobile devices. And the players that are already doing that are, unsurprisingly, not super thrilled with all the attention Apple(s AAPL) is getting today. And they’re defending their territory.

CourseSmart, a digital textbook company, that happens to be backed by some of the biggest players in academic publishing — including some of those who Apple announced as partners today — sent a long-ish statement right after Apple’s announcement on Thursday.

The company, which currently has 20,000 digital textbooks and an iOS app, points out that buying iPads and forcing a specific device standard may not go over well with all schools. (“Are they asking students to shell out hundreds of dollars from their cash strapped pockets to purchase a dedicated device instead of using what they already own? Did they really just announce plans to develop a ‘secret’ learning management system with the iTunesU App?” they ask rhetorically.)

But then Coursesmart starts defending its territory: professionally produced e-textbooks from the established academic publishing industry. Not just anyone can make a textbook, they say.

“This content needs to  not only be developed by subject matter experts, but, more importantly, edited through an academic lens in order to ensure learning takes place and our youth is prepared to compete in a global economy. Publishers and authors will remain the drivers of high quality content.”

CourseSmart’s texts are mainly for the higher education, and Apple seemed pretty careful to target K-12 with its e-textbook authoring tool. But still — while Apple says it wants to be additive to the industry, its very presence is upsetting to some of the established players. Will Apple start targeting college and university textbooks next? CourseSmart implies that they think so.

7 Responses to “E-textbook veteran CourseSmart defends its turf”

  1. noah gray

    CourseSmart is awful. I gave them a try when they first got hype, took a refund cause the app didn’t even orient right. Tried it again to see if it improved (web-version this time, sans-ipad) and it was slow and I got mixed messages about what I was buying from different sales people at the campus bookstore, and the receipt that said I would be able to download the ebook. Turned out to be online-only, one-page at a time, and slow.

  2. DigDug2k

    Heh. Everyone loves the big companies until they start competing in the same bracket that they’re in. And the big companies are starting to get big enough that that is justa bout everything. Your best hope is to be bought out.

    And the ironic thing is, it usually has nothing to do with the quality of your product. The best thing in the world just can’t compete with a strong brand name and a 9 figure marketing budget.

  3. I’ve used CourseSmart as a graduate student and now, as a part-time professor. The iPad app is terrible. I’d compare it to reading a PDF but that wouldn’t be fair to great apps like PDF Expert and others. Most of my students elect to purchase the Kindle version of the book if available. CourseSmart’s business model is all wrong from a student perspect. “Save 50%” by getting the digital version. Well, that typically means 50% off of the list price of a new copy of a text book which is still twice what one would pay for a used hard-copy in good condition. Plus, you are only renting the book for three or six months. From my perspective, the Apple model announced today rocks.