Thursday, January 19, 2012

Apple's Amazing New Textbook Initiative

I've been following today's Apple announcement of their new initiative with text books. It's fantastic: free textbook reading and composing apps, astounding sleek futuristic interactivity...the result is going to be like total catnip for kids, and the major publishers are on board.

Two unstated upsides:

Announcing this as an education initiative is coy. This is more than about creating textbooks. Apple now has the best-ever e-book creation app, e-book reading app, and tablet e-book reader, period. The package is revolutionary in empowering anyone to self-publish ebooks (not just e-textbooks) for the iPad - and since iPad has such a huge lead over other tablets, it's hard to worry about this being a narrow, dead-ending platform.

Also, I don't know if Apple anticipates this, but their e-textbooks will get huge purchases from non-student adults. Wouldn't you welcome a chance to read through Biology or Chemistry (or "Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life", "Natural History Insects", E.O. Wilson's "Life on Earth", etc.) with mega-cool interactive and multimedia aids, for under $15 per book? The textbook end of this alone (and, again, this is about a lot more than textbooks) will tap the adult education market, the self-improvement market, and the documentary film market!

Two unstated downsides:

1. Poor kids can't afford to pay for their own textbooks.

2. Poor kids can't afford to buy an iPad.

And it would be disgusting if this amounted to yet another leg up for rich kids ("Turbocharging tomorrow's income disparity!"). So...there will have to be philanthropy.

Note about the announcement: Apple harms their message and image when they go over the top with inane touts. It's sloppy, and so unnecessary. E.g.:
"There is no reason to assume today that kids need to use the same tools they used in 1950. To do so is to prepare them for a world that's already passed."

"The iPad is more durable than paper."


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