Is iBooks really the future of textbooks?

3 Feb

Just finished listening to the latest edupunks podcast about etextbooks and the impact of  this slick move of Apple’s into the textbook market.

Once the initial hype has faded it seems likely that this won’t be quite the revolution Apple is predicting. Some reasons:

  • iPads are closed systems and Apple wants to closely control what goes on an iPad. That’s where the real revenue is generated, through content.
  • Compatibility may be a problem. The education system is mostly populated with Windows machines and infrastructure, because that’s been the most cost effective way to go for the last 15 years.  My school board wifi doesn’t support Apple devices newer than 3G. Spec. Ed. classes are getting iPads on a trail basis, but they won’t be able to connect to the wifi.
  • The economics of K-12 textbooks may not support it. University texts are more expensive and go out of date very quickly. An elementary math text should cost about $10/year, and maybe less if it gets used for longer. Throw in the cost of iPads for all students and the savings aren’t huge.
The basic idea is promising but the execution may be questionable. This seems like an opening for a cheaper tablet to come in with an open content system just as Google Android did to the iPhone.
Kindle Fire maybe? Stay tuned.

2 Responses to “Is iBooks really the future of textbooks?”

  1. Cam MacDonald (@NumberScheme) February 17, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

    I agree that this is no revolution…but for a different reason. These are still “textbooks”. They’ve just been digitized. They don’t really do much to change the learning experience. All they seem to do is perpetuate “high-tech” “old-fashioned” approaches to instruction. I’m quite worried (to be honest) about all of the excitement about eTexts. I’m certainly going to continue to watch how this pans out.
    Check out these blog posts for another taste of what I mean
    and (for thoughts on Khan Academy)


    • acampbell99 February 17, 2012 at 8:47 pm #

      I agree that right now, we’re just digitizing textbooks, but that’s just about adapting to a new technology and new modes. The first TV shows were just theatre productions recorded with a camera and it took a while and some experimentation for a new media form to emerge. I think it’ll be the same with digital textbooks. I think we can see some of that with magazines. They were the first media changed by the iPad and we’re starting to see better use of linking and embedded video that enhance the experience.

      The part of this I think is most interesting is the way it will democratize the content. That’s what happened with music and now there are thousands (millions?) more people making and sharing music before the ‘digital revolution’. I’m hoping we see the same with textbooks, where teachers can create support materials customized for their students and have them access them on a tablet. And, of course, share them with other teachers to add to and improve. I’m more interested in that aspect of it than in adding to Apple’s bottom line and maintaining the grip large companies have on educational materials.

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