Apple’s Big Plan To revolutionise The Textbook Stinks

phil schiller apple ibooks

[credit provider=”AP”]

Apple’s big education announcement this morning is ambitious.It wants to make it easier for professional and independent authors to publish trade books and textbooks.

The new digital textbooks would be more engaging and interesting, and retail for just $15. Considering most textbooks retail for $75, this is a nice win for students. And considering the iPad weighs just 1.3 pounds, it’s going to help the backs of a lot of students.

Digitizing textbooks and making them more engaging is a no-brainer. (Digital textbook startup Kno has been working on this for a while now.)

But for all the good stuff Apple is enabling with iBooks it’s also presenting a rather flawed vision for the future of education in our opinion.

This is the absolutely earliest stage for Apple, so were hoping it irons out the kinks.

Here are our big problems with what Apple announced today:

  • The iPad is still $500 — that’s not an affordable option for a lot of people. Right now, Apple’s focus is the high school market. Not all public schoolers can afford an iPad. What happens to them? They miss out on the great digital textbooks? Apple will do leasing deals with schools, says Josh Topolsky at The Verge. Is that an affordable option for already strapped school districts? Hopefully Apple introduces a cheaper iPad this year. Down the line, maybe everyone has an iPad, as Dan Frommer suggests, but what happens when Asus swoops in with a $100 tablet running Android for schools? Will these digital books work for Android?
  • Is this even legal? According to Peter Kafka, the digital textbooks will be iPad only. Earlier this week we spoke with Osman Rashid of Kno, which already distributes interactive, digitized textbooks. He says that it will be illegal for the textbooks to only be available through one channel. They have to work across a number of platforms.
  • Not everyone loves Apple’s world. Stunning as this may be to Apple and its many adherents, some people like Microsoft. Some people like Android. Some people like the free and open web. Apple’s plan is to lock everyone into its hardware and software through the iPad?
  • Can you fit all the books in the iPad? These books will be 1.5-2 gigabytes each. A low-end iPad has 16 gigabytes of storage. If you’re a high school student and you need a textbook for every class, then your iPad will be maxed out, with little storage for anything else.

Update/Bonus: Apple’s iBooks Author software won’t let the author own his or her book, according to the end-user agreement. That’s absurd.