(NEW YORK) -- Apple, which changed music with its iPod and mobile communications with the iPhone, said Thursday it was offering software that would reinvent the school textbook. It was a project inspired by Apple’s late co-founder and CEO, Steve Jobs.
“There’s a lot that’s talked about that may be wrong with education. One thing we hear louder than all else and where we can help is in student engagement,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s marketing chief, at an announcement at New York’s Guggenheim Museum. “That’s why we get excited when students get their hands on an iPad.”
Schiller and his Apple colleagues showed off two new applications to take the information in textbooks and put it, in interactive form, on iPads and computers. One is called iBooks 2, a free download for iPads, available from Apple’s app store starting Thursday. The other, iBooks Author, is a tool he said authors and publishers -- as well as students and others with an interest in education -- can use on a computer to create interactive iPad lessons.
He showed how different lessons -- in biology, math, literature and other areas -- could play on an iPad. The new interactive books would cost $14.99, far less than most of today’s paper textbooks. They could be updated continually, said Apple.
Students will be able to “mark up” their iPad books electronically, creating the digital equivalent of note cards as they go through lessons, said Apple. And they will be able to keep the iBooks, since they are digital files, after the courses are over.
Schiller said Apple was forming partnerships with three of the biggest publishers of school texts: Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which are responsible for 90 percent of the textbooks used in the U.S. today. DK Publishing, which publishes vividly-colored books for younger kids, is joining in as well. Apple said a first offering would be an iPad-only book, Life On Earth, by E.O. Wilson, the famed biologist and professor emeritus at Harvard.
There are major questions still to be worked out, the largest being whether schools will generally be receptive to the Apple initiative. There have been online textbooks for years, but they have not often been interactive.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio