Apple has descended upon New York for its ‘Educational Announcement’ today, and in doing so has unveiled a brand new version of its digital books platform for the iPad: iBooks 2. Can Apple reinvent the textbook?
The idea of this update to iBooks is to do just that: to capitalise on the fact that the iPad has found great use in educational environments and offers a tonne of advantages over a standard textbook.
Taking to the stage, Apple’s Phil Schiller said that the use of iPads in schools is “starting to take off, but we want to make it even easier.” The plan? Completely replace haggard old textbooks with fully interactive ones.
“I think you can see immediately, these are gorgeous books,” said Apple’s Roger Wosner. “They have some really cool, rich, engaging interactive experiences.” And he was right. These new textbooks come loaded with galleries, videos, parts to pinch and zoom, rotate and view.
There are interactive quizzes at the ends of chapters, smart indexes, contents and glossaries that automatically turn into flash cards to help you remember them. Students can make notes on any part of the book on their iPad, tap the menu bar and see them all in one place.
Of course, for this to take off you’re going to need a new bunch of newly configured digital textbooks. Worry not: Apple’s got your back. In the second part of the keynote, Schiller unveiled iBooks Author, a Mac app that works like Garageband for writers.
The app comes preloaded with Pages-style templates to choose from, alongside the tools needed to embed videos, picture galleries, tests and all manner of other interactive elements.
It’s all done in a simple, drag-and-drop fashion, with galleries slotting in cleverly next to text sections and the like. If you want to go off-piste, you can even embed Keynote presentations and things from the web using HTML. Anything you do can be previewed on the iPad at any time.
The best bit? This software is free and out now on the Mac App Store. Likewise, as of today, the iPad’s been gifted a new category within iBooks for ‘Textbooks’, which is stocked with books from some of the biggest publishers in the game. All of the iBooks textbooks are priced at $14.99 (£10) or under.
As Apple’s typically cliched video puts it: ”When you learn, you become a better person.” Quite what percentage of students Apple expects to realistically own iPads remains to be seen, but this is step in the right direction for the future of education, all the same.