In a bid to reinvent the education industry, Apple on Thursday announced an app called iBooks 2.0 that allows educators and authors to create interactive textbooks for use on the iPad. Major publishers, including McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, are on board, and some prestigious universities are giving the program a shot. The books will integrate videos and interactive lessons, complete with a robust new note-taking technology. And the digital textbooks will cost just $14.99, while their back-straining paper counterparts can run $75 and up. Can Apple do for textbooks what it did for the music industry?
Yes. This will change everything: "Apps, notes, syllabi, textbooks — they all integrate. As long as I can get iPads for my students, I can do it all," William Rankin, Abilene Christian University English professor, tells Ars Technica. This will "democratize" college classrooms, letting educators create relevant course material without relying on IT departments, textbook publishers, or school administrators. "A teacher will be able to do anything they need for their class."
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But schools have no money: The e-books themselves are "undeniably cool," says Kayla Webley at TIME. So obviously, using an iPad is "undoubtedly" a better strategy for engaging students than the current "dead tree versions." But "budgets have been slashed, teachers are losing their jobs, and no amount of cookies sold at a bake sale will buy every kid an iPad." With no mention of iPad discounts, the reality is that most students will "be using the same old textbooks for years to come."
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And who will police the books? It's unclear, says David Carnoy and Scott Stein at CNET, whether Apple will "allow books that, say, teach creationism or a controversial philosophy." Will it weed out content if finds objectionable from "the potentially huge trove of new e-books created in iBooks Author"? And how will Apple enforce copyright protections, when many teachers copy course packets directly from books? Even if the current industry is "inefficient," Apple sure "stirred up more questions than they answered."
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