iBooks Refresh Makes It Easier to Tweet "50 Shades" Passages

Apple's eBook platform for iOS is getting its first significant update in nine months. iBooks 3.0 will arrive in the App Store later today, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced this morning at the event where Apple's new iPad Mini was introduced.

The new iBooks app will feature better integration with iCloud, continuous scrolling and support for dozens of new languages. Apple is also whittling away at its own walled garden a little bit by letting readers share passages via Facebook and Twitter.

Apple has been baking social networks more deeply into its operating systems, and this update is a nice touch. The inability to share short excerpts with friends was a palpable shortcoming in iBooks until today.

It's not just eBook readers that are getting new features today. Apple is also pushing out a new version of iBooks Author, the drag-and-drop publishing tool used to create books for the iBookstore. iBooks Author features new templates and embeddable fonts. 

A new push in education 

In January, Apple took aim at the education market when it launched iBooks 2 and started offering digital textbooks in the iBookstore. While iBooks 3 is a more subtle update, Apple is emphasizing the growing role iPads play in education and has some numbers to tout. The iBooks platform now covers 80% of the core curriculum in U.S. high schools and more than 2,500 classrooms are using iBooks textbooks, Cook said. 

Apple also addressed one common criticism about the iPad's viability in the classroom this morning: the price. Alongside the fourth generation iPad, the company unveiled the iPad Mini, a $329 tablet with a 7.9-inch display.

The lower price point will make the iPad Mini an attractive option for cash-strapped school districts, while also pushing the competition in a way that is sure to impact the tablet market overall.