Having already done their part to shake up several industries, Apple officially unveiled what the company hopes is the next phase in textbooks. Starting today, iBooks 2 will be available in the iTunes App Store. The update will provide access to Apple's new breed of interactive textbooks, which are aimed at high school students and will cost $14.99 each. To help populate the store, the company is also launching iBooks Author, a self-publishing application for authors.

Apple's new digital textbooks will be available through the iBookstore and will feature much more rich and interactive components than their existing, consumer-focused e-books. In a demo at today's press event in New York City, the company demoed a science textbook complete with video, rich graphics, multitouch support and thumbnail-based navigation.

Textbooks sold through iBooks 2 will allow for a far more interactive learning experience than their paper counterparts. Glossary terms can be looked up instantly, the index of each book contains links to the appropriate sections and each chapter closes out with an interactive Q&A for students. Books can come with built-in flash cards for memorization as well as any additional multimedia or Web-based resources that could aide in the learning process.

To bring this new initiative to market, Apple partnered with textbook publishers Pearson, McGraw Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Initially, the textbooks will largely be geared toward high school students, but it sounds like there are plans to expand to other levels of education in time.

Fulfilling Steve Jobs' Vision

In his official biography of Apple's late cofounder, Walter Isaacson revealed that in addition to television and photography, one industry Steve Jobs was hoping to revolutionize next was textbooks, which he saw as being "ripe for digital destruction."

Today's demonstration very much echoed Jobs' vision for textbooks, which he saw as cumbersome, heavy and slow to update. By contrast, the iPad is portable, interactive and of course quite easy to update with new information.

To that end, Apple is rolling out a new application for the Mac that enables authors to easily build interactive textbooks using a drag-and-drop, WYSIWYG interface. iBooks Author for OS X supports everything from simple text to interactive graphics and allows authors to weave the Web into their publications using JavaScript and HTML5 add-ons.

Apple also unveiled a new iTunes U app, which gives teachers more digital tools to stay organized and communicate with their students.

This is not an all together shocking direction for Apple to move into, considering its somewhat recent foray into e-books with iBooks and how the iPad is already being used for educational purposes. That the tablet form factor makes for a potentially excellent educational tool is not at all a new concept, and it's one that Apple has already been using to help sell the iPad pretty much since day one.


See Also: Why Apple Won't Disrupt the Textbook Industry Anytime Soon