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Apple’s textbooks see 350,000 downloads in 3 days: Will it last?

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Apple’s (s aapl) new iBooks digital textbooks initiative has seen 350,000 downloads in just three days, according to Global Equities Research (via AllThingsD), which keeps track of downloads from Apple’s store via a proprietary tracking tool. That’s a strong start for Apple’s expanded educational offerings, but the real question will be whether that can translate into long-term success.

The new iBooks interactive textbooks, which come from major educational publishers like McGraw-Hill (s mhp) and Pearson(s pso), among others, were unveiled last week at an Apple media event in New York City. The textbooks were the primary focus of the event, which also saw the introduction of iBooks Author, an e-book creation tool, and an iTunes U-dedicated iOS application. iBooks Author saw 90,000 downloads in the three days following its introduction, Global Equities Research said, but it didn’t share numbers for iTunes U.

That Apple would see 350,000 downloads of its iBooks textbooks immediately following their unveiling is not surprising, especially given that the store offers free samples, as well as one of its highlighted books free in its entirety. Curiosity, media interest and a desire to check out something new from Apple’s digital storefront would definitely all contribute to heightened interest.

The real test, however, will be whether or not Apple’s textbooks can keep up their momentum long-term. AllThingsD’s John Paczkowski points out that publishers are counting on higher volume sales at lower prices to make selling digital textbooks at $15 more profitable than selling paper versions at $75. But getting schools and parents to buy into a system in which books can’t be passed on from student to student, and which could potentially be paid for directly by parents themselves won’t be a simple matter. Not to mention that iPads are required to make the system work, which obviously represents a considerable expense in itself.

Over at ZDNet, (s cbs) James Kendrick has a good round-up of the arguments against Apple’s textbook initiative succeeding. He lists a lot of good points, but overall you get the sense that the biggest problem might just be a lot of hesitation from schools about adopting a model so different from what’s currently in place. Institutional inertia is not easily overcome, after all.

Three hundred fifty thousand digital textbooks downloaded in three days is definitely impressive, and could bode well for Apple’s textbooks initiative; people are obviously interested, and that’s a good thing. But the real test is yet to come. Download numbers following the kick-off of the school year next fall will definitely be a better time to make prognostications about the success or failure of Apple’s latest venture.

10 Responses to “Apple’s textbooks see 350,000 downloads in 3 days: Will it last?”

  1. Taylor B. O'Neal

    Eventually text books will be digital and this is a great step towards that. More engaging content that’s easier to update and less reliance on physical printing and distribution is wonderful and long overdue.

    Of course there are challenges and at first it will have more limited appeal but support of major publishers and an easy authoring tool is fantastic.

    Give Apple a chance and instead of knocking down the effort immediately, say ‘hey, what can we do to overcome these challenges?’

    • Don’t forget the 1GB mdownload per book too, and crappy availability outside the US. Even now, I can only get Gutenberg books and the ones apple demoed on the iBooks store. Thank god for calibre and it’s book conversion features, and easy publishing to iOS and many other readers.
      The real question is, why not deliver this all over html5? And the answe comes back to protection, lockin and DRM.

  2. Steffen Jobbs

    I’m sure this download number will be laughed at by the critics and they’ll say that Amazon moves that many textbooks in an hour’s time or something. Anything that Apple tries to do will be criticized and discounted as some selfish marketing scheme to lock more consumers into the Apple ecosystem. I’m sure that’s also true, but how is that different from what any other company would try to do. Microsoft certainly locked companies and institutions into the world of Windows for tens of years. Apple is certainly trying to support its own hardware and why shouldn’t it. Apple is a business like any other business. Apple should be able to sustain those numbers if that digital platform is solid and useful to schools.

    The haters want to see Apple’s digital textbook platform fail, but it’s the students and teachers that should make that decision. If a better digital textbook system comes along from Google or Microsoft then maybe the critics will be happy because anything else is going to be cheap and that’s basically what the Apple haters really want.

    • The 4th and 5th graders at my daughter’s school do get a Kindle reader (the older black and white ones) that have some books in them. The Kindles have to stay at school though. Amazon charged in the area of 50.00 per Kindle. They are not fancy touchscreen iPads, but they hold a text book just fine.
      I think the risk is far too great for a public school to buy into any kind of pure tablet delivery system. The 5 year old history book that the students use now will have them same history about Columbus that the digital one has.
      2 + 2 still equals 4, whether in an already owned paper book, or a new digital book.
      If our school were to receive a giant discount from Apple, say 300.00 a tablet for just the two grades, it would still come out to 30,000 just for the tablets and an additional 15.00 for each text book (each year).
      I would love to see the kids get a chance to use tablets more (my daughter has a 7” tablet and a laptop at home)
      But I just don’t see how a school could do it these days. Maybe when the tablets get a little cheaper

      On a side note, when you come right out and bash a side, they will naturally come out and bash you back…