Special: Coverage of Apple’s Education Event

by on January 19, 2012

At its education event, Apple made significant updates to a number of their education products. iBooks has been updated to version 2, and includes support for textbooks, while iTunes U is now its own iPad app. The biggest news (we think) is the new iBooks Author app for the Mac. Not only is it free, but enables anyone to create rich content.

Event Invitation

iBooks 2 & Textbooks

First up, Apple demonstrated its own take on the electronic textbook. These will currently be available for high school courses, at $15 or less each. Apple partnered with the biggest textbook publishers, McGraw Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Pearson, who control 90% of the market. As expected, the textbooks feature quite a bit of interactivity, including video, diagrams, quizzes, photos, and updates.


Although you lose out on selling used books, the lower prices mean that a whole collection of books for classes still will probably be cheaper. Furthermore, over the course of a couple of years, the savings will more than pay for an iPad.

iBooks Author

Next, we got to see a new product from Apple, called iBooks Author. It’s found on the Mac App Store and is free. The basic idea is that you can drag and drop content into templates—or create your own—to produce textbooks. Based on the demos, it looks quite a bit like Pages-meets-Keynote-with-a-little-iWeb thrown in. The Verge even said that was like a modern-day HyperCard—we agree.

iBooks Author

No word on reading iBooks on the Mac, though…

iTunes U

Finally, iTunes U got a much-needed update. Now, there’s an app where students can browse courses, much like iBooks, but also download or stream video and download materials to go along with the course. Additionally, K-12 schools can get in on the content creation.

iTunes U


Although no announcement was made, one can hypothesize that the biggest cost of this push are the devices themselves. The Verge spoke with Phil Schiller about the topic:

The company had no announcements to make (and that sentiment didn’t change when I pressed reps for comment), but it will be an interesting question to see answered in the coming months. If Apple wants school districts to buy an iPad for every student, it’s going to take more than just a great presentation. When we spoke to Phil Schiller, he told us that he thinks the numbers work out favorably for school districts if you weigh the costs of textbooks and classroom computers against iBooks content and iPads. “It’s affordable for schools,” was the message.

The company did tell us that it works with districts to lease iPads on a four-year schedule — so that will potentially ease the strain on budgets.

If you want to see the event yourself, Apple has posted it.

This post has been filed in News, Special Coverage