January 19, 2012 | Andy Boxall
At a special event held at the Guggenheim museum earlier today, Apple released several new applications all related to education, school textbooks and bringing students and teachers together through a single device.
Introduced by Phil Schiller and Eddy Cue, with demonstrations by the VP of iTunes Jeff Robbin and the VP of Productivity Software Roger Rosner, iBooks 2 was the first new app unveiled.
Rather than an entirely new app, it’s actually an update to the existing iBooks application, but it adds a new series of textbooks specially designed to take advantage of the iPad’s abilities.
So, instead of pages of text and flat images, students will get interactive features, photos and video, all controlled using multi-touch. Displaying more visual content when read in landscape, then becoming more text based when turned to portrait, readers can still take notes, highlight passages and create study cards for later use.
Each textbook is aimed at high school students and are priced at $14.99 or less each, plus there’s a free sample to download too.
Next up was iBooks Author, a Mac app used to create textbooks for use in iBooks 2. It’s a lot like an iWork application and can adapt text from both Pages and Word for use in iBooks, as well as deal with the interactive and visual content too.
The new app is primarily aimed at the conversion of existing or the creation of new textbooks, but can in theory be used for any book. It’ll be interesting to see if it’s embraced by the self-publishing industry as a way to get into the iBookstore. iBooks Author is free to download from the Mac App Store, but only works with OS X Lion.
Finally, Apple announced the iTunes U app. It can be used by students, teachers and those simply interested in taking a free course, and offers everything from text, audio and video course materials, plus all the relevant documents and presentations. Assignments can be shared between teacher and student, as well as vice versa, plus notes can be transferred across from relevant iBooks.
The iTunes U app is free to download and available now.
Surprisingly, Apple didn’t announce a promotion to offer iPads at a reduced rate to students, which remains the largest hurdle for widespread adoption of these textbooks. Apple called the iPad ‘affordable’, and also highlighted how many iPads were already in use in schools, but surely for their new education drive to take-off, every student in a class needs one, and not just a select few.
Only time will tell if Apple has kickstarted the textbook revolution it so obviously desires.