iTextbooks

There is certainly an anti-Apple slant to this Fox News piece By Avram Piltch.

The cost of iPads, digital textbooks, and the infrastructure to support them will prevent most schools from offering this technology to their students, creating yet another sharp dividing line between the haves and have-nots. Instead of paying a Mac tax, educators should embrace open standards like EPUB and the price-lowering competition they bring.

And then this-

If educators support the EPUB3 format, students will have the option to purchase their textbooks from any number of online stores, giving them a wide range of book choices and the ability to find the best deals for their schools. There’s no need to pay a profligate textbook tithe to eBook Emperor Cook in Cupertino. Free your mind and the texts will follow.

What is clear is that the author doesn’t understand the nature of the textbooks Apple is going to be offering. They won’t be just text and pictures, but instead are a hybrid of the content in traditional textbooks and the graphic interaction of a computer application. In other words, EPUB compatibility would just be switching to digital versions of the traditional texts already in use. Apple is proposing something significantly different. Something different that I hope my children get to use soon.

Talking with my wife about it today made it clear that this may only be available to more affluent schools initially. That is usually how things work with technology though. Early adopters are almost always folks with more cash.

Of course “early adopter” and “initially” implies that there will be a larger market and broader adoption at some later date.

What I wonder is whether Apple will develop cheaper, more durable devices in order to get into more schools. While they have often catered to and offered attractive terms to schools it the past, this is different. These devices have to go home, get carried in backpacks and make it back in one piece. I can tell you from first-hand experience that the current iPad is unfortunately fragile.

Some feel that because of these limitations, it would be a much better fit for college students, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see a correction in the first year or so. I like this article and this quote by MG Siegler-

If it does take off, I bet it does in colleges first. And that’s why it’s weird that Apple is starting off by focusing on high school.

Apple is in the business of selling hardware- and for the most part any content that they sell has been to that end. Making a cheaper iPad like device to move textbooks is a different business model and one that I’m not sure Apple has any interest in pursuing.

There is a lot to overcome here if Apple is to see wide spread adoption of their new iTextbooks in schools. What isn’t clear is how widespread the adoption has to be for Apple to consider it a success. If textbooks allow them to sell another 3–4 million devices, will that be enough?