The news of today is the launch of Apple’s iBooks 2 (liveblog coverage from the Verge here), which promises to ease the creation of textbooks and a providers more efficient method of distribution. I have no doubt it will be both successful and disruptive, but I’m unsure what success looks like in this case.
In the short term, it looks like iBooks supports hardware sales in the form of iPads for educational use and the iTunes/Books/Apps ecosystem. The iPad is both wildly popular and profitable, so it is easy to understand the appeal of continuing sales. Apple also gets content exclusivity for any published work and 30% of the selling price (which is capped at $14.99).
The education-technology market is more likely to be disrupted by future version of iTunes U, with Blackboard being particularly vulnerable. Another sparsely described feature is the ability to create eBooks and uploading them to the iBook store. I wonder what this means for the bulkpack? Or the captive publishing houses at large Universities?
I can envision a future where districts or states internally crowdsource their own textbooks written by education professionals, but the stumbling block would likely be the licensing of graphics and videos and the cost of creating interactive content. I suppose one of the winners with the launch of iBooks 2 will be for writers, editors, and creative artists who specialize in interactive, graphic, and video content.
Students are able to enjoy more engaging content with the best features of other eReader platforms like notations, bookmarks, and highlighting. Presumably content can be more easily tailored to match local school district curriculum.
There’s also a benefit to the legacy textbook publishers in that it provides for a more steady flow of revenue and shortcuts the used textbook market and allows schools districts to rein-in the increasing costs of textbooks. From the Chronicle of Higher Education:
The game-changing business model being tested in the bulk-purchasing experiment goes like this: End the need for students to buy their own books each semester by requiring them to pay a course-materials fee to the university, which would use the money to purchase e-textbooks at deeply-discounted prices. It’s a model that publishers appear interested in, because it gives them a steadier and more predictable source of income than the current practice of letting students find textbooks any way they can—used, new, borrowed, or downloaded.
Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs [Amazon] has this:
“His idea was to hire great textbook writers to create digital versions, and make them a feature of the iPad. In addition, he held meetings with the major publishers, such as Pearson Education, about partnering with Apple. ‘The process by which states certify textbooks is corrupt,’ he said. ‘But if we can make the textbooks free, and they come with the iPad, then they don’t have to be certified. The crappy economy at the state level will last for a decade, and we can give them an opportunity to circumvent that whole process and save money.’”
I don’t really see Job’s vision fully realized in iBooks 2, but the groundwork is there.