Apple unveils iBooks 2 (textbooks) and iBooks Author
The iPad was a huge, unqualified success.
While the Agency Model the iBooks engendered flipped the business, it didn’t seem like Apple was turning that into book vendor success for themselves (which wasn’t necessarily their primary goal with that move anyway).
I’ve always felt that Apple had a period in their history where having gotten lots of computers into schools (especially universities) enabled them to survive…and later to dominate.
At the time, local government offices didn’t really have their own computers much, or at least didn’t do significant computing. They would turn to universities to do things for them. The universities had free Apple computers, so the local governments got the same. People who had to interact significantly with the government (like lawyers) matched that.
I was teaching WordPerfect to lawyers long after Microsoft Word had the lion’s share of the word processing market.
Steve Jobs had (correctly, I think) identified the textbook industry as one “ripe for digital destruction” (as allegedly reported in a recent biography).
A college student spending a thousand dollars for potentially outdated books that they would resell later (and that would be resold several times) wasn’t unusual.
That was a daunting model for a lot of families.
Now, Apple is reinventing iBooks to bring you textbooks:
Of course, the textbooks will look and be cool, be interactive, be cutting edge, be user friendly (including for highlighting, notes, and instant review cards), and work smoothly…all hallmarks of Apple.
What about that other hallmark of Apple? Higher price for superior quality?
I’m seeing news stories mentioning $14.99 as a price.
Fourteen dollars and ninety-nine cents for a textbook.
Now, we need a whole lot more data on this. Yes, some of the high price of paper textbooks had to do with that resale factor…publishers and authors aren’t compensated for those secondary sales, so they have to be built into the base price.
Textbooks are also relatively expensive to produce because you need to pay experts who can take a long time to produce a chapter. The number of pictures and other images is high, and those are expensive to produce (even digital delivery has a cost based on size of the file).
I sincerely hope that this transforms the textbook business…although that would be bad news for chiropractors. ;)
Amazon…well, not exactly promised, but suggested, that there would be a digital textbook revolution when they announced the Kindle DX, and they had partnered with major textbook publishers.
Some of those same publishers are partnering with Apple on iBooks 2.
I’m going to go through this more thoroughly. One ironic and frustrating thing: I wanted to watch the video they’ve done about the textbooks…but this computer doesn’t have QuickTime (an Apple video viewer) on it, so it asked me to install that. I did…and it still won’t work. I may need to restart before it does. That’s illustrative of Apple keeping it inside the fence. They couldn’t give me a Flash option? HTML 5?
Amazon, by the way, has been working on more interactive books like this, but this announcement Bigfoots what they’ve done with textbooks…including their rental program.
I’m sure that paper textbooks are about to fall off a cliff (they are just so expensive and appear increasingly impractical in a digital world). My feeling is that a key component of that industry in the future will be topic-specific e-texts. Rather than paying $200 for a book that covers a semester, you pay $20 for an individual topic. That makes it much more affordable and easier to produce. I’m presuming these Apple books and Amazon interactive books will be huge files. I doubt you are going to be putting ten of them at a time on a mobile device. One topic from ten different classes? That seems more possible.
The other big book/publishing related announcement was iBooks Author
This is their independent publishing app…and does things that could greatly benefit Kindle Direct Publishing.
At Amazon, you build your book yourself…Amazon basically has nothing to do with that part.
With this app (from the Apple Appstore), you drag adn drop, add interactive elements, and so on. Important to many: that include VoiceOver (text-to-speech) support After you build the book, you can publish it…and you can make it available for free.
Amazon needs to get something like this in their store. Even though Amazon hasn’t developed this kind of software before, they could.
They need something that automatically puts in an interactive Table of Contents, uses formatting that works (so we don’t get books with those question marks in them for characters), makes endnotes work properly, inserts chapter marks, makes doing a cover image easy…the whole thing.
There already is software that can help people write a novel…that could be made available as well (I’m not saying that one would be free).
Again, I need to read more about this. Apple doing these things will drive Amazon to do more…a good thing.
One more piece:
Though I wouldn’t say it is being emphasized, the social nature of iPads will clearly be part of the textbook strategy. Can’t be in the classroom? FaceTime your teacher right in the book. Your study group? In ten different countries. Want to know if your students are getting it? Poll them.
I am pleased with this announcement, although the Agency Model has me suspicious about what might be behind the scenes I just haven’t discovered yet. They have a lot of trust to recover with serious readers over that…but that doesn’t mean that I won’t applaud good things they do.
What do you think about all this? Surveys have indicated that students haven’t been crazy about e-textbooks…will this change that? Is Apple’s publishing too insular, or not different from Amazon in that regard? Does this bootstrap the general interest iBooks store? Will you use it as an author/publisher? How do you think Amazon should respond, if they should at all?
Feel free to let me know what you think about it.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.