Earlier this week, Apple had a big education based announcement. In it Apple showed off IBooks 2, its new education based platform that featured E-textbooks. Now apple isn’t the first company to offer digital textbooks, Amazon has and still does offer digital textbooks that are designed for use primarily on the computer. The big difference here was that these textbooks were designed from the ground up for use on the IPad and were far more than just words on a page. These new textbooks featured a brillant high resolution presentation and even rich media such as video embedded in the page. This new textbooks platform made for some pretty exciting information, but is this really the future of education or is this more about a long term business strategy?
In true Apple form, these IPad based textbooks have been worked on and tested extensively before this weeks announcement. While obviously it is too soon to say whether having an IPad for every student would help, hurt, or have no effect on a student long term, short term evidence does show that student were more engaged by the interactive text than a traditional book. Does this mean Apple is paving the way to the future of education? Perhaps, it is too soon to truly say, but one thing is easily noticed from taking a closer look at the education announcement, and thats how powerful this can be in the long run. Letting go of the question of the future of education, this new textbook platform locks up something that in the short term is far more valuable to Apple and thats market share.
Right now, the IPad is far and away the highest selling tablet device on the market, but it is no longer completely unchallenged, Asus and Samsung for example have shown themselves to be capable competition, and this was only exacerbated by Amazons much cheaper Kindle Fire. This new textbooks platform is exclusive to the IPad meaning if you are a college student, and want a digital version of the biology book, your Kindle Fire or Galaxy Tab is suddenly useless.
Apple has already signed deals with the giants of the textbook field including Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Pearson, and McGraw-Hill the clear leaders in the field. Even more cut throat and telling of the greater mission with this new education initiative is Apples deal for new publishers. Apple has stated that it will allow the publishers to set whatever price they choose for their books (an issue long fought with music companies on ITunes) but in exchange, they need to make the digital texts exclusive to the Apple book store. This means if a publisher wants to jump on the bandwagon here, in exchange for setting their price, Apple has to be the only game in town. Once again it seems Apple has side stepped the war other manufacturers are waging. While companies like Samsung and Amazon are trying to match Apples value proposition on the hardware side, Apple has scorched an entirely new path with this education based software powerplay.
So is Apple changing the face of education? Quite possibly. One this is certain, however, they are changing the battle field these “tablet wars” are being fought on. What do you think? Is this a misstep? Is Apple putting too much value in the idea of digital textbooks? Or is this really the future of education come early? Let us know below: