iBooks 2 Impacts Distribution Model But Content Is Still Key

On January 26 Aptara held a webinar on Apple’s iBooks 2 announcement and how it could affect educational publishers. While the speakers were excited about the technology in iBooks 2 and its potential impact on learning resources, the speakers were also quick to point out that iBooks 2 is another distribution model. They emphasized that the value of instructional materials comes from the content, created and curated by professional publishers.

Highlights

1. Bruce Marcus, Chief Digital & Information Officer, McGraw-Hill

  • He said that McGraw-Hill views the iPad and iBooks as just another place for distribution. While it’s an exciting development, it will not be the most important factor in improving our country’s education system. The real value of educational publishers is in the creation and curation of the content, the pedagogy, and the way in which we help teachers and students. He said that McGraw-Hill has and will continue to publish material on every platform used in schools because the company’s goal is to get materials to students in the way they need it and can access it. He believes that it’s how publishers can take advantage of new technology to help students that will really impact learning.
  • Because they are developing content for multiple platforms, they need to be able to share information across the company and have control over different versions of publications, the company will continue to use its content management system and will just access the new Author tool for pouring content into the iBook.
  • Finally, he reiterated several times that the value of an educational publisher is in the development of the content, so the pricing of the iBooks won’t affect the company too much. It will cost the same amount of money to create the lessons. He also told the moderator that it was not accurate to compare the pricing model of the K-12 and the higher ed market. Students in K-12 need to buy new books every year, whereas college students tend to keep their materials. A student taking math for four years in high school, spending $15 a year on an iBook, will equal $60. A print textbook is about $75 for five years in an adoption state.

2. Samir Kakara, Chief Technology Officer, Aptara:

  • While impressed with the basic features of iBooks and the authoring tool, he says there are some big limitations. First, users cannot save versions or share materials in the author tool. Second, while users are able to put in 3-D objects, javascript, and other fancy objects, the program does not help make them. Users need to have the other development programs and the technical knowledge to use them to create these added features. Third, doing math in it is tricky. If users copy and paste equations into the program, it turns the equations into an uneditable picture.
  • Students will only be able to access their books on an iPad. He says that the reality is that even when schools have iPads in the classroom, the kids can’t always take them home. He says the platform should be available for desktops and mobile phones to give as many kids access as possible.
  • He also sees copyright as a potential problem with teacher- and parent-made iBooks.

3. Matt Mullin, Programming Director, Digital Book World:

  • He agreed with Bruce on both the issues of pricing and the fact that iBooks, as exciting as it is, is just another way to deliver content. He thinks if a publisher were to only deliver in iBooks, it would be a mistake. He also echoed Samir about the lack of versatility in viewing iBooks. He says that a web version is a must in the next iteration.
  • He also pointed out that the marketing from Apple needs to be put in perspective as part of the company’s goal is to sell more iPads. But, the iBooks format does advance the usability of texts on the tablet.
  • Finally, he said not to worry about the pricing too much yet. The market has yet to shake out from everything that has happened.

AEP has long held that the quality of the content is more important than the medium for helping students learn. AEP’s position statement “Quality, Differentiation and Accessibility Of Educational Resources,” states, “Whether the products are print, electronic, visual or web-based, educators and administrators hold educational publishers responsible and accountable for accurate, up-to-date content that meets state, district, and curriculum standards and learning goals and addresses the different cultural backgrounds of today’s students.”

At the 2012 Content in Context, speakers will discuss the ever-growing demand for medium-agnostic content the evolution of pedagogy and the changing needs of students and educators as we work to increase the quality and accessibility of learning resources. Read the position statement. For more on the CIC, go to www.contentincontext.org.

Listen to the webinar from Aptara.

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