Apple’s new breakthroughs in textbook presentation and authoring – iBooks or no Books?

Two new developments have been in the news over the last week, which may or may not be a major breakthrough in the world of textbooks for the school or university student.

First, Apple have developed an authoring tool – iBooks Author (1).  You can create your own book with widgets, graphics and even build in voice-over assistive technology (this last a particularly welcome move).

Second, interactive textbooks are now on the market, including titles from Pearson and McGraw Hill, which can be read on the updated Apple software iBooks2, popularized on the iPad and other Apple hardware. (2)

Interactive mobile friendly textbooks have a great appeal, even if my trial of a different sample on iBooks2 kept crashing the application! (An experience echoed by author users’ comments on the review page for the book.  I deleted the App.).

These could be a great way of saving space and enlivening the whole textbook experience for students. 

However, this comes at a cost – an iPad2 starts at £399 (3).  How does this affect lower-income students, or those whose fees are heading for £9,000 a year?

Will publishers be stuck between Amazon and Apple? (4)

And – what about libraries?   The cost of hardware, and tie-in to proprietary software, make textbook provision on iPads (etc) via iBooks2 practically all but impossible.  As Peter Brantley writes (5),

“There’s no independent platform capable of hosting these books beyond the iBookstore, and no way to drive lending. Readers wishing to take advantage of ibooks must be Apple iPad users (…) .  the tying of the ibooks format to the iPad device interferes with the library’s mission to provide as broad access to published literature as possible”.

Watch this space …

Post by : Jon Andrews


(1) iBooks Author.  In: Apple official website [online]. Apple UK, 2012. Accessed 26/01/2012. Available from: .  

(2) Apple starts selling interactive iPad textbooks.  In: Manufacturing.Net [online]. Advantage Business Media, 2012.  Accessed 26/01/2012.  Available from:

(3) iPad.  In: Apple official website [online]. Apple UK, 2012. Accessed 26/01/2012.  Available from:

(4) Jones. Don’t be afraid, be very afraid. In: FUTURe BOOK [online] [23/01/2012].  Accessed 26/01/2012.  Available from:

(5) Brantley. Libraries borked by ebook forks [online].  In: PWxyz “The news blog of Publishers’ Weekly” [23/01/2011]. Accessed 26/01/2012.  Available from:

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