Reinventing textbooks and the classroom itself, Apple unleashed iBooks 2, an updated iPhone and iPad app that enables highly interactive digital textbooks. The company also announced a new textbook section in the its iBookstore.
At an education event at New York City’s Guggenheim Museum, Apple demonstrated how the new app goes beyond text to include educational movies, multitouch capabilities and support other interactive features such as 3D cell models.
Other features include a built-in glossary, easily accessible index links, and Q&A sections at the end of chapters that go beyond text to become visually interactive. The multitouch features make it easy to highlight and take notes in the margins, so high schoolers can mark up their books without paying for it at the end of the year. The notes can be viewed in one spot, saving students the late night study scramble.
One catch is that Apple retains licensing rights to material created using iBooks Author under its End User Agreement, allowing the books only to be sold through iTunes.
Apple also announced the new iTunes U which allows students to download lectures and other materials through iTunes. The service so far has had over 700 million downloads, according to Apple. Over 100 courses by participating colleges have been created through iTunes U.
The catch to Apple’s new educational approach is cost. While college students will be able to skip hundreds of dollars in textbooks they’ll simply sell back for beer money at the end of the semester, they’ll still need to invest in an iPad, a significant expense for anybody waiting tables to make ends meet. The cost factor poses an even bigger wall to high school students mowing lawns for pizza money, or school systems on strapped budgets. At the same time, the cost savings from automatic textbooks could help offset the investment over time. While more and more schools are providing laptops for students, it’s yet another expense for districts that can barely afford to pay the teachers they already have.
Education still isn’t free, but now its updatable, searchable and ready for nature videos at the drop of an app.