Friday, January 20, 2012

My Look at Apple Jumping into the Textbook Business

It has been less than 24 hours since Apple has announced enhancements to its iBooks app and now has an  iBooks Author app for the Mac platform.  I see some great promise and great reservations in this process.  It could be a boon for those teachers who are very creative and have some technology wit in using iBooks Author.  But many people are criticizing this new app as not being friendly to everyone and only can be applied to the iPad.
Let's start with iBooks Author.  I just played around with it for a few minutes.  There are six templates available with cover art that are placeholders and can be easily replaced.  My first concern is that you can't simply copy and paste photos from different locations, but you actually have to attach by going through files.  I do like the fact that you are able to set up a table of contents and glossary.  It can be published in iBooks, PDF, and text format.  I may be tempted to use this over the summer and create mini-units based on material that I cover in my classroom.  I must admit I am not very creative when it comes to graphic design and this app can even help you create basic animation.  Since I am a Social Studies teacher, I could create timelines and attach photographs or link details with them.
iBooks Author templete chooser
Here is my reservation about this process:  Copyright.  It is funny that Apple releases this app the day after the internet protests of SOPA and PIPA which the basic premise of these bills is to give credit to those who deserve it.  I would be using a variety of resources to put together one of my mini-units.  How do I give credit?  Could I consider this content mine?  These are things adults are unsure of and we are expected to teacher our children this as well.  I don't think this was addressed by Apple.
Another concern I have is access to the material that has been published.  Are schools going to provide iPads to all students.  An iPad is easily $500 each and to be used effectively as a learning device all students should have access to it at all time (in and out of school).  Apple has said that several textbook publishing houses are going to sell textbooks on iTunes/iBooks at $14.99 or less.  So would this be $14.99 or less for each student copy.  Also, Apple says that any book published through iBooks Author must be sold through the iBookstore.  I would assume Apple would get a 30% cut of the price.  Could I sell and distribute my book for free?
Another concern I have is do these $14.99 books have the same content as what we normally would have in our hard-copy textbooks?  I envision the publishing companies setting up packages for teachers and districts to customize their iPad textbooks.  The World History textbook I use has 25 chapters, but I only use 10-12 chapters of the text every year.  So I have students carrying an 8-9 pound book they only use less than half of it in a year.  I don't see the textbook companies allowing teachers to omit any content, but they would be willing to have additional content added at a price and promising continuing service through the 7-year contract.
Going back to creating my own textbooks, there are open-source material out there that I could use.  I'll only create content that my state content standards and objectives cover rather than from a textbook company catering to Florida, Texas, California, and New York.  I can make sure internet links work to make sure content is up to date (yes, history content changes every once in a while).  I can also add activities I use in my classroom.
I also see school districts hiring specialists to use iBooks Author to create units specifically for their school districts and bypass textbook companies.  This could change the whole way textbook companies operate and cater to school districts.
I would like to see a book that I publish be in a similar format as Amazon Kindle books that I can read on different devices and be able to sync up to the location where I left off on another device.
There is a lot of work to do on this iBook Author app and iBook textbook format.  Hopefully in future versions, Apple will see what the needs and wants of the teacher community and make changes for the better.
These are just early, brief observations from me on the topic.  Add any comments you have about iBooks, iBooks Author, or even iTunes U (which I have not discussed) below.

1 comment:

  1. Are you going to Charleston to see the new I pad for education (that announcement was in our email from Sondra last week)? Educators in the AM, superintendents in the afternoon. February something - I forget the date.

    Most photographers and publishers on the internet have solved the copywrite for education by posting their restrictions on line as well as watermarking photos and asking you to d/l files to your server before putting them in any work to be shared, or ask for money to pay for the use of... Writing for free (like Mr. is great for the classroom. We won't make money from the work, but maybe for the ads.