Apple Unveils iBooks 2 with Interactive Textbook Support [Updated]

| Product News

Apple introduced iBooks 2 for the iPad on Thursday during a special education-related media event in New York City. The new version of iBooks adds support for interactive textbooks — a feature plans to exploit as part of its initiative to change how students learn.

iBooks 2 offers thumbnail views for textbook content, the ability to zoom in on high resolution images, intro movies, 3D model viewing, support for swiping to highlight text in textbooks, and support for viewing glossary terms without leaving the current page.

The app is required for Apple’s new textbooks created with iBooks Author, and to download textbooks from the iBookstore.

iBooks 2 is free and is available at Apple’s iTunes-based App Store. Textbooks available through the iBookstore are priced at US$14.99 or less.

[Updated with additional iBooks 2 details.]

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Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

This is an interesting play by Apple. Everything tells me that by making this basically iPad-exclusive, it has multiple market failure points built right in. A year from now, I’d bet that the system most benefits those students who go all-in with Apple and aren’t critical of what they get.


You could say the same of a student’s choice of university. One can always opt for another.


it has multiple market failure points built right in

But you must admit it is an elegant business strategy from Apple. Get people hooked on the iPad with everything they can do on their iPhones but with a much bigger form factor. Add the games in addition to browsing, emails, music, movies, etc. Then go books and magazines, and finally textbooks. Tens of millions of people already have an iPad, and now will add multiple more for their kids for school. I seriously doubt that Apple cares about the failure points built in.


In that Apple is providing the creativity and reader tools free, one would conclude that they are being aggressive in this endeavor. In another article, my comments were in favor of an independent educational group setting the specs for producing and using these materials. That is really pie in the sky thinking and would likely take decades to get all the parties together.

I have downloaded iBooks Author and it is typical Apple software. I don’t know how they could have made this any easier to use all the way to uploading to iTunes. Certainly wouldn’t expect them to provide all this free and help their competition by providing access for sales at Amazon or some other. Besides, the fragmentation of display sizes on other platforms would probably have taken a lot of the “easy” out of this product.

I would say this announcement shuts out the 7” iPad being released. As far as other platforms go; they will have to develop their own soon or risk being shut out. It looks like Amazon is in the crosshairs on this one.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@Ron: Absolutely, I will admit that this a bold strategy and an elegant implementation. I just built a real, commercial website with iWeb, so I really do appreciate what Apple does in this tools space. But at some point, there are costs to other stakeholders of locking into to proprietary Apple technology and processes where Apple could exercise editorial control. Almost two years after the great skin purge, I still think people are in evaluation mode on those costs. And the problem there is that the costs are not really bounded in the worst case.

If Amazon comes along and delivers effectively the same thing that works with its Kindle strategy of reaching all platforms, even if it’s half-assed compared to Apple, it will be more attractive, because building competition in will limit the damage any particular player can do. Bezos gets the value in that.


Amazon has a long way to go in developing a response to Apple’s move. They primarily sell content. How long would it take them to write a software program that does this? What platform/s would this software run on? What end user hardware would be supported? There is whole host of technical issues they would have to solve. When could they get this to market? They would probably have to offer it for free. I think they would have to partner with someone (Microsoft? Issues there. Google? Other issues here).

One huge advantage Apple has is a very narrow focus. They make bold and fast moves. Apple leads. Others scramble trying to match. Say what you want about Apple’s tight control. One thing it does is leave competitors eating their dust. Maybe this product will fail. At least they can hope it does.


If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.


I agree with a lot of your points Brad. You definitely want to have competition involved. In my opinion, you’ll have a ton of people who know and love iPads and who have kids that will be going that route as soon as the school system is supportive of it. Given the hundreds that I spend each semester on textbook “rental” fees, I will be picking up three iPads (one for each of my daughters) to replace textbooks. Quizzing my daughters on chapters prior to tests shows me how incredibly boring and hard to absorb the material looking at a huge book. I know my daughters will learn a lot better with some interaction, just like they do with games like “Stack the States” and “Stack the Countries”. If I can pay $15 for a textbook for my 7th grader and then be able to “give” the book to my 5th grader and 2nd grader when they enter 7th grade (complete with annual updates and rewrites) will be invaluable to me. And during the summer after their 6th grade is done, to be able to tell them, “Hey, go and read the first few chapters of your 7th grade history book to prepare for school next month” would be great too. As for 7” vs. 10” - well, iPad is winning hands down already, and frankly for textbooks the difference will be more obvious of an advantage toward the iPad size. Skipaq is right - Amazon has a long way to go now. No doubt.

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