Guest post by Mike Lemaire.
Two weeks ago, Apple announced its plans to launch a new version of its iBooks app, one that would carry interactive textbooks aimed at school students. The most surprising part of the announcement may have been why it took so long for this to get launched in the first place.
On the surface, iTextbooks, which will only be available on the iPad, seem like the logical next step in the disruptive innovation of traditional education. The company has said it will be selling these books for just around $15 – a fraction of the cost of the traditional textbook to students – and iBooks will have plenty of interactive features, including streaming video, designed to make learning more fun and interesting. These changes seem like no-brainers, and they would be, if it weren’t for a few lingering questions.
Firstly, iBooks is only available to those who own an iPad, which seems to place the thousands of students who can’t afford to pay $500 for the iPad at a severe disadvantage. Also, textbooks are required to go through a rigorous state certification process before they are approved for school use, and it remains to be seen how Apple will be able to circumvent and/or cope with this process when it is releasing its books.
These questions are valid, and definitive answers probably won’t come until schools and students start buying into the viability of interactive textbooks, but the gauntlet to the textbook industry has been thrown down. Textbooks are heavy, expensive, and can be a burden to read, but they are also essential learning tools. There is plenty of coursework and learning that can be completed using information readily available via the Internet. But when a teacher is using a specific textbook to craft their tests and quizzes, there is no replacement for having the actual textbook.
This is why the question over iBooks isn’t about whether or not it will ever effectively disrupt a billion-dollar industry, but when it will effectively disrupt that industry. For now, iPads remain an expensive luxury item that is available only to the privileged few. But eventually they will become common amongst students, and students will make the easy decision to buy their cheaper textbooks through iTunes. The state certification process is rigorous, but it is in place to protect the students. And as long as Apple is serious about making this useful for students, then even the most stubborn state departments of education will recognize their value and approve the ones that are worthwhile.
Technology never stops evolving, so it seems silly not to try and apply the most recent technology to institutions – like education – where that technology can be most useful.
This was a guest post by Mike Lemaire who is a content editor and writer who runs a blog on online schooling. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, you can follow him on Twitter as well.