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Could Apple’s iBooks Event Be Another Game Changer?

by on January 10th, 2012

Ah…another year, another set of Apple rumours to steep in, and let’s say 2012 has yet to disappoint! Kara Swisher of All Things D is reporting that Apple will be holding a press event in New York this month focusing on iBooks and a possible publishing platform. If all the buzz will live up to expectations, Apple may finally be ready to disrupt the publishing space like Amazon did with its Kindle platform. Here’s why.

Clayton Morris (of Fox and Friends) posted on his blog last week speculating on the press event, believing that it will focus on digital textbooks and an education initiative. There’s definitely a lot of credence to this claim. Afterall, there’s already a lot of synergies between Apple and university campuses. Many universities in both the US and Canada are already familiar with iTunes U, mostly in making lectures and courses publicly available online. Furthermore, both faculty and students continue to turn to technology to help meet ever increasing demands for high quality education at ever increasing costs. Through an iBooks education platform, Apple has the ability to provide a win-win solution to universities.

For publishers, the cost to produce textbooks would start dropping. With eBooks, publishers would begin to cut physical publishing costs such as paper, ink, and hefty delivery costs from their bottom line. Furthermore, with digital distribution, publishers can cut out the second-hand book selling and lending market by offering a lower cost product that students can actually afford every semester. (Whether or not that will happen, though, is certainly up for heated debate.) Also, publishers can finally embed interactivity in their textbooks without requiring physical supplementary materials (such as DVDs) or convoluted and arcane web portals laden with DRM.

For professors and lecturers, courseware can be updated dynamically to reflect addenda, errata, day to day changes, or even ground-breaking events. Imagine how courses in Political Science or Journalism would change day by day when we have real-time events can be linked into courseware and pushed directly to students before their next lecture. This has the potential of ultimately turn e-learning platforms on its head.

For students, it will ultimately come down to cost. However, the greater interactivity and reduced stress from carrying pounds upon pounds of textbooks would also be appreciated. Some may say that the cost of an iPad would effectively negate the savings from textbooks. However, I say that as more schools demand laptops as an entry requirement for all incoming students, an iPad (plus keyboard) could suffice just as easily at about the same cost.

In all types of these changes, though, there are sure to be some losers, and this is no different. For one, second hand bookstores (typically run by the student unions) would lose out on a significant revenue source. Also, campus bookstores themselves would get hit equally as publishers cut off relationships with their intermediaries. There are certainly ways around this, though, as publishers can modify their revenue sharing deals with universities for continuing to shift promotion from physical to digital textbooks (don’t think that doesn’t happen already).

In all, I think Apple has the potential to rock the academic publishing market quite a bit, in ways that Amazon has tried, but failed to do. While the details of the event this month are still elusive, I’m sure there will be plenty to analyze, dissect and ponder in the weeks and months to come. What do you all think about the potential of the iPad as a full service education platform? Does it entice or dissuade you? Let us know in the comments below.

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Posted under: iBookStore