Apple unveils e-textbooks, self-publishing app in new iBooks 2


Apple unveiled its new iBooks 2 Thursday, introducing e-textbooks and self-publishing software. 

"We want to reinvent the textbook," said Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, at a press event at the Guggenheim museum in New York this morning, CNET reported

All e-textbooks sold through the new app are priced at $14.99 or less: a huge contrast to the high-priced paper books that currently fill college bookstores, The Los Angeles Times pointed out.

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Apple already has major publishers on board, including the world's biggest textbook publisher UK-based Pearson, McGraw Hill, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, who together make 90 percent of the textbooks sold in the US, according to the Times.

Several textbooks are already available for download today under a new "textbooks" tab in the iBooks store.

"We see enormous potential to create these kinds of programs for more students, more stages of learning and more geographic markets," Genevieve Shore, Pearson's director of digital strategy, told the BBC

Pearson already has some e-textbook versions of its titles for sale, such as Algebra I, Biology, Environmental Science, Geometry. Those textbooks are used by more than 4 million high school students, AppleInsider reported

The e-textbooks will be much more interactive than traditional paper textbooks, and include features such as embedded videos, portrait/landscape mode switches for more or fewer graphics, tapping on words for definitions, highlighting with your finger, and pop-up spaces for taking notes, according to CNET. 

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"Having movies and videos embedded; being able to search; look up a glossary; write your own notes and then going to exam questions… [this program is] just tying it all together on one device is a magical experience for the children," Linda Robinson, president of Britain's Girls' Schools Association, told the BBC. 

However, she noted that many schools are not even close to being up to speed on the technology needed to support these e-textbooks. 

"Most schools don't have wireless, and we have not as yet got to the point where every child has the ability to buy such a device," she said. 

The new iBooks 2 also features iBooks Author, a program that allows anyone to create an interactive book. Apple has built templates for books within the program, making it easy to self-publish. 

"If you've ever created an e-book before, you know this is a total miracle in terms of time savings," Schiller said at the event this morning. 

The new iBooks also includes updates to iTunes U, where students can stream lectures, read texts, watch videos online, and then tap to mark the assignment as completed. iTunes U is currently used by about 1,000 universities in 123 countries, according to CNET. Today's update allows elementary schools, middle schools and high schools use of the free app as well. 

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