Less than 24 hours away from Apple's "education announcement" in New York City, Bloomberg weighs in reporting that the event, set to begin at 10 AM EST at the Guggenheim Museum, will be focused on iPad, digital textbooks for students from kindergarten to 12th grade (K-12) and self-publishers. Initially rumored to be about "textbooks" as suggested by Steve Jobs in the authorized biography by Walter Isaacson, speculation leading up to the even has seen different sources claiming Apple will have a broader set of announcements with textbooks, but also a strong iPad presence and new tools to create eBooks on the desktop. Specifically, Ars Technica referred to these tools as GarageBand for eBooks.
Bloomberg now claims Apple's educational plans will be primarily focused on showing the potential of digital textbooks and iPads in schools:
The plans, to be unveiled by Apple Internet software chief Eddy Cue, are aimed at broadening the educational materials available for the iPad, especially for students in kindergarten to 12th grade, the people said. By setting its sights on the $10 billion-a-year textbook industry, Apple is using the tablet to encourage students to shun costly tomes that weigh down backpacks in favor of less-expensive, interactive digital books that can be updated anywhere via the Web.
According to Bloomberg, there will be announcements for both publishers and authors. Authors will be able to create new digital editions of their works using a modified version of ePub, a file format that is already used in the publishing industry. Bigger publishers will be able to create digital textbooks with embedded graphics and video, suggesting that rumors of a simple interface similar to GarageBand for managing media and content within an eBook might be correct after all. It is unclear whether Apple is preparing one or more "digital tools" for independent authors and large publishing companies, although Bloomberg noted:
Apple also wants to empower “self-publishers” to create new kinds of teaching tools, said the people. Teachers could use it to design materials for that week’s lesson. Scientists, historians and other authors could publish professional-looking content without a deal with a publisher.
If true, this would suggest the company has created an improved eBook creation tool atop of the ePub standard with different options for independent authors and publishers to distribute their creations digitally through iTunes, or, for instance, locally in a classroom. Teachers willing to collaborate with students on a week's lesson clearly wouldn't need the App Store or the iBookstore for distribution, which may lead to some interesting speculation about "textbook sharing" and a possible iCloud implementation, too.
Highly anticipated then quickly dismissed as "over-hyped", Apple's education event is shaping up to be an interesting milestone for the company in the field of education. The iPad has become Apple's second best-selling device behind the iPhone, with the company expected to report record sales for the holiday quarter next week. In spite of the iPad and iTunes offering a variety of educational content in the form of apps, eBooks and iTunes U content, in two years of iPad Apple has yet to officially commit to education and schools as a viable market for the device. Schools and universities have adopted iPads with independent programs and initiatives; now Apple has a chance to unify its educational offerings with publishers deals, a clear policy for independent authors, new tools for eBook creation, and perhaps simpler distribution methods that don't require iTunes in the classroom and will allow for educational discounts on volume purchases (which Apple is already doing).
We'll be covering the news from tomorrow's Apple event starting at 10 AM EST (7 AM Pacific time) here on MacStories.