Textbooks suck. They’re pricey, heavy, often outdated and they don’t play videos or music. The folks at Apple have been pushing possible educational aspects of the iPad since its release, but today the company went hogwild on the topic, introducing both a new version of its iBooks e-reader app and an app to help anyone create truly interactive books on the fly.
iBooks 2 basically allows publishers to include all the stuff in books — though today’s big announcement was targeted specifically at textbooks — that you can do in other iPad apps. So that picture of an ant in your textbook can now be a video. Charts, graphs and other things of that sort can be animated and interactive. You can zoom in and out, even talk to your textbook if you want.
Instead of having a quiz that requires students to write on a separate piece of paper. Boom-bam-bim… you do it right there on the iPad. We don’t know if the app would prevent students from using the iPad’s web browser to search for answers, but that’s not our problem.
Users can take notes and highlight text straight into the textbook. This information can then be quickly converted into study cards for when it’s time to bone-up for an exam.
Apple says it’s working with educational publishing biggies like McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and others responsible for those massive texts you barely read back in the day.
In addition to the new-fangled reading experience, Apple showed off something called iBooks Author, which isn’t exactly an accurate title, as it’s more of a publishing platform than a place in which to write. Regardless, the app essentially lets users create their own textbooks directly on the iPad, importing files form any of the iWorks word processing or graphics programs, or even outside applications like Microsoft Word. iBooks Author is drag-and-drop, WYSIWYG app, as it doesn’t need to worry itself with the print resolution or font file issues one encounters in print-centric book design software like InDesign or Quark.
But while this software might be free and easy to use, what still remains is the cost of actually getting iPads and other tablets into the hands of students. Publishers may play along for now, but until schools and local governments begin subsidizing iPads, it will likely be a while until a students’ entire textbook library is on their wireless device.
To quote my pal and rabid (well, not literally rabid) Apple enthusiast Calvin, “Students all over the world can no longer use ‘My dog ate my homework!’ as excuse. But they can try ‘My dog ate my charger!’ instead.”