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Apple Hits Books with iPad-Based Learning Revolution

Thu, 01/19/2012 - 7:02am
Andrew Berg

Apple today presented its vision for the future of education and the modern classroom appears to rely heavily on the company's iPad. Apple launched iBooks 2, iBooks Author and a revamped iTunes U app for iPad, all free applications that it hopes will revolutionize how students learn.

Ibooks 2, a free application for the iPad, is Apple's outlet for digital textbooks that integrate a variety of multi-media content, such as videos, 3D models and widgets. Users can also take notes, highlight passages, create flashcards from glossary terms and more.

Perhaps the star of today's show, however, was iBooks Author, a piece of OS X desktop software available for free through the App Store, which allows just about anyone to make an interactive book or textbook.

The Author program allows users to drag and drop documents created in Microsoft's Word to create the text of an iBook. Video clips, widgets, photos and more also can be easily inserted into the digital books. Users can expand on Apple's existing templates and widgets by using HTML and Javascript.

At launch, Apple says iBooks 2 will focus on high school textbooks, which sell for $14.99 or less. The company has partnered with major textbook publishing houses, including Pearson, McGraw Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Pearson has Algebra 1, Biology, Environmental Science and Geometry, books used by more than 4 million high school students. McGraw Hill has Algebra 1, Biology, Chemistry, Geometry and Physics, all of which are available today.

Additionally, Apple expanded on iTunes U, which aims to facilitate collaboration between student and teachers at various educational institutions. iTunes U is currently home to more than 350,000 free lectures, videos, books and podcasts from learning institutions all over the world. Universities such as Yale, Stanford, UC Berkeley, Oxford, Cambridge, MIT, Beijing Open University and the University of Tokyo, as well as broadcasters such as PBS, offer free content on iTunes U.

Now iTunes U will act as a hub for faculty and students, where users can check and submit assignments, view syllabi, communicate with instructors, sign up for classes and view teacher-posted videos and notes.

Six universities – Duke, Yale, HACC, MIT and The Open University – have had early access to the iTunes U, and the app is available today for K-12 schools.

The impact of today's announcements on the educational materials market likely will be mulled for months going forward. One thing's for sure: Apple is once again aiming to corner a content market in order to sell more of its iconic hardware. In this case, the iPad.

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