USA Today’s Baig: Apple scores with iPad textbooks and iBooks Author for Mac

“Two weeks ago, Apple declared its intention to be at the head of the class, with the unveiling of the iBooks 2 for iPad app and the iBooks textbooks that are the first to exploit the app,” Edward C. Baig reports for USA Today.
“I’ve spent time diving into some of these textbooks on the original iPad and the iPad 2. Initial works in algebra, biology and chemistry come from major educational publishers McGraw-Hill and Pearson. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and DK are also early publishing partners (the latter produces books on dinosaurs, insects and mammals),” Baig reports. “Though I encountered some unfortunate crashes and bugs — Apple has a software fix coming soon — multitouch digital textbooks, when working smoothly, are engaging in ways that were simply not possible with the textbooks I grew up with. Digital versions promise instant search and easy navigation. They’re rich in interactive animations, pictures and videos. It’s better to see an animated tour of the genome in E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth than just to read about it. The various books let you consult study cards, create bookmarks, drag your finger to highlight passages and add notes. And textbook authors can update material to keep it current.”

Baig reports, “The other obvious A-plus benefit, true of any e-book but especially comforting to a student schlepping from class to class, is that you can lug the digital equivalents of heavy print textbooks without breaking your back… To encourage development, Apple launched iBooks Author, a free authoring tool for the Mac that encourages anyone to produce their own iBook textbooks, cookbooks, how-tos and other works. Apple says more than 600,000 copies of the tool have been downloaded since launch. Authors can distribute the books for free. But if they put the iBook textbook up for sale, they must do so through Apple’s iBookstore. (Authors can use the content in other digital and print formats, Apple says.) So the supply of digital textbooks should look a lot better by next school year.”

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