Analysts expect Apple to sell 48 million iPads this year, with new hardware and software driving the sales. iPad3 is right around the corner, and today Apple unveiled (watch here) a new initiative that will bring textbooks to the iPad/iPhone platform. Download the latest version of the iBooks app and you can now purchase textbooks (typically for about $14.99) that feature enhanced materials such as 3-D models, searchable text, photo galleries and flash cards for studying. (To see it all in action, download a section of E.O Wilson’s Life on Earth textbook here.) And if you’re a teacher, Apple will provide you software – iBooks Author — that will let you make your own interactive textbooks. Of course, all of this presupposes that students (or cash-starved schools) can swing the price of an iPad ($499 at minimum) and that teachers want to oblige students to work within Apple’s closed ecosystem.

Then came another piece of news. Apple has released a new iTunesU app that lets students access enhanced university courses … for free. Once you download the app, you can select courses that combine audio/video lectures with supporting materials: books and articles (sometimes free, sometimes not), transcripts of lectures, exercises, slideshows, useful software and beyond. Some courses preloaded in the free app include:

American Revolution – Joanne Freeman, Yale
Colonial and Revolutionary America – Jack Rakove, Stanford
Core Concepts in Chemistry –  Stephen L. Craig, Duke
iPad and iPhone App Development – Paul Hegarty, Stanford

These courses now appear in our collection of 400 Free Online Courses, which aggregates free courses available on iTunes, YouTube, and the web.


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  • I’m a university professor who also creates online material for my students and for commercial publishing firms. Right now, the only motivation for a university author to use ibooks author to enhance text is if Apple pays to have it done or if the the author is in a position to require his or her own students to purchase a particular text – which happens to be authored by the professor. It’s not open for all users.

    Neither of those situations is in the best interests of the student and I cannot in good conscience ask my students to pay even more (to require an iPad) than they already are forced to pay. I require purchase of an online supplement to textbooks and that they own a clicker to use in my class. All this while a new textbook can run $175 in the campus bookstore.

    It’s far too early to know that iPad is the default choice of students for reading. In fact, I see more students reading with a nonilluminated source like Kindle.

    Apple seems to come out ok in most of what they do but this seems like a bad move. I hope it doesn’t push students into a situation where they have to pay even more.

  • Jarod Morrison says:

    A college student can easily drop $500 on books in a semester. As a student facing at least 8 semesters of buying books, I’d be more than willing to buy an iPad my first year if I knew that my books would never cost me more than $15 each.

  • claudia says:

    I love my I-pad and it had replaced my laptop in many things but, just out of curiosity, I downloaded the section of “Life on earth” you mentioned in your post above and it “ate” 2GB, I mean 2GB of my total space!And this was just a secion of 1 book!
    If Apple plans to promote this interactive books they will have to come up with I-pad devices having huge storage space and what will be the price considering even the 16GB version at the moment is more ecpensive than many laptops on the market!
    I don’t see it coming very soon.

    Clausia

  • Dan Colman says:

    Some interesting observations here.

    I just added one factoid to the post — books will generally run about $14.99, which frankly isn’t bad.

    The fact that these books eat up storage is a big negative, that’s for sure. But you can probably guarantee that models with more GBs will be here soon.

    Dan

  • Matthew Barnes says:

    I suppose most majors may benefit from this. But for me, in my 4 years of college, I’m positive that I’ve spent less than $500 on textbooks and that’s because I primarily went to libraries for the required reading and if the text wasn’t available at the library, I’d buddy up with a friend and we’d split the cost.

    Now for art supplies, I’m sure I’ve spent at least a grande!

  • We are considering using iTunes U as a platform to support our students. I have been trying to find out what Apple charges the institution to put content in iTunes University. I see that it is free to the users. Is the same true for educational institutions, or can I just not find the page with the pricing?

    Thanks.

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