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Apple dives into education with iBooks 2 and iBooks Author

by Doug Drinkwater

January 19 2012

The Cupertino-based giant took to New York today to unveil the iBooks 2 digital textbook iPad app, a desktop publishing application and another iPad app to help students find course content.

Apple ran through the features of iBooks 2 (a free app for iPad and iPad 2) and iBooks Author (a free Mac OS X app) at the event, with Roger Rosner, VP of productivity applications, highlighting the ability for the former to include text with embedded movies, offer improved layouts, portrait/landscape viewing and the chance to do quick tests on the fly. Rosner explained that the app also allows students to search for keywords, highlight sections of work, and take notes.

"Clearly, no printed book can compete with this”, exclaimed Rosner.

Apple’s marketing chief Phil Schiller spent some time extolling Apple’s aims to ‘reinvent’ the textbook, claiming that past, more physical, efforts were too cumbersome.  In order to give a hint of Apple’s success thus far in the education market, Schiller mentioned that 1.5 million iPads are in use in education today, running approximately 20,000 education-specific apps.

Apple went onto reveal that iBooks 2 will offer books in every subject, at every grade level and for all students, with new high school textbooks costing around $14.99, a far cry from the $60+ printed textbooks of the past.

Schiller said that Apple has worked with a number of publishers for the project, including Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, while DK and the E.O. Wilson Foundation are also on board. iBooks 2 has launched today, with seven textbooks available at present, including Biology and Environmental Science textbooks from Pearson.

iBooks Author, meanwhile, is a free publishing Mac OS X app which allows anyone to create interactive eBooks. The app - described as the GarageBand for books by some - supports JavaScript and HTML, can work with Microsoft Word and Apple's own suite of office tools and enables content to be formatted to wrap around images. Surprisingly, the app apparently lets authors publish directly to the App Store.

There was one final education announcement from Apple, which was on the launch of the new iTunes U app. This is another free iOS app which allows school and university students to access education material in one place. The app is conceived for students and teachers, with the latter able to deliver assignments and post messages to classes. The integration with Apple’s new Textbooks section means that teachers can also recommend apps or textbooks to their pupils.

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