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Posts tagged with "iBooks"

iBooks Textbooks Commentary

Following the announcements Apple made this morning about iBooks 2.0, textbooks and iTunes U, some interesting discussions have surfaced online in regards to Apple’s willingness to improve the education system – and reinvent textbooks – using iBooks and the iPad. Being based in Italy, I can’t comment specifically on the U.S. school system and what these new products mean for students, school districts and educational institutions, but I do have a few ideas and links to share.

iBooks has turned into a platform. No more just an e-Reader, with the addition of textbooks and books created through iBooks Author Apple seems to be betting on iBooks as a platform that stands on its own, just like iTunes and the App Store. You could argue that this was already clear from the start with the dedicated iBooks app and iBookstore within iOS, but it’s even more relevant now because of one key factor: content creation. Provided you have an iBookstore account, you can now create content-rich books on your Mac and sell them through the iBookstore. You can also export them locally, and preview them on your iPad. I have no idea how smaller, independent publishers and authors will respond to iBooks Author in the long term, but as far as creating content goes, Apple’s latest desktop app looks fantastic. The double nature of this announcement (rich textbooks, books by authors) combined with the existing features of iBooks has a real chance of creating “an iBooks ecosystem”.

Software sells the hardware. Obvious consequence: books created with iBooks Author (packages, not the actual content) can only be sold through the iBookstore. Now, assuming authors like the functionalities and workflow enabled by iBooks Author and assuming they also like money, if this initiative proves successful in the long term, what devices are authors going to recommend?

…It depends. iBooks Author looks like a great eBook creation app, but some authors are skeptical. We will have to wait and see if authors will adopt the software, if Apple will provide continued support with updates and, ultimately, if iBooks Author can be used effectively for all kinds of eBooks, not just those heavy on media and fancy effects. For instance, it doesn’t look like EPUB is supported right now as the format seems to be different. Ben Brooks is right: Apple seems to be targeting Kindle Singles directly with iBooks Author.

Rich content made simple. iBooks Author simplifies the process of creating content-rich books with drag & drop, pop-out menus, auto-align controls, and more. From iBooks Author’s Help section:

  • Gallery: Add a sequence of images your readers can swipe through, each with its own custom caption.
  • Media: Add a movie or audio file readers can play.
  • Review: Add a sequence of interactive multiple-choice or drag-to-target questions.
  • Keynote: Add a Keynote presentation (exported as HTML).
  • Interactive image: Use labels (sometimes called callouts), panning, and zooming to provide detailed information about specific parts of a graphic.
  • 3D: Add a 3D COLLADA (.dae) file readers can rotate.
  • HTML: Add a Dashboard widget (.wdgt).

By using web technologies, desktop-class content creation software and an iWork-like interface, with iBooks Author Apple is offering what Xcode is to the App Store. For free.

Accessibility. iBooks Author fully takes advantage of VoiceOver and other Accessibility technologies to let people with disabilities read and experience books. Apple takes Accessibility seriously, and it shows.

Other uses for iBooks Author? I haven’t played with it yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see iBooks Author being used for other purposes.

iBooks Textbooks remind me of Push Pop Press. And guess what, the folks behind PPP (acquired by Facebook earlier this year – coincidence?) sound pretty pissed off.

Prices. iPads are expensive! But so were PCs and Macs. As Stephen Hackett correctly points out, Apple doesn’t disclose educational pricing, and several schools already have leased Macs in the classrooms. Will Apple provide a 1-1 “switching program” for schools that don’t need Macs anymore? And what will base pricing of leased iPads look like? The Verge spoke to Apple’s Phil Schiller, who told them “he thinks the numbers work out favorably for school districts if you weigh the costs of textbooks and classroom computers against iBooks content and iPads”. Joshua Schnell has a slightly different take and suggests that iPads may only end up being used in “rich white kid schools”. I think we don’t have enough details to speculate on Apple’s educational pricing right now (as usual, a Volume Purchase Program for apps and books is available). The only data point we have is that iBooks Textbooks will be cheaper than physical textbooks…if publishers don’t change their minds.

Yes, physical books are more “durable” if you drop them. But what do you use today, an encyclopedia with a typewriter or a PC? Time to move on.

Other devices. I’m hearing reports of iBooks 2.0 and iTunes U not running smoothly on the original iPad and older iPhones, confirming my theory that textbooks seem to be heavily targeting the speedy A5 processor of the iPad 2 (I have no idea why would iTunes U and regular books run slower on older-gen devices though). Let’s not forget that an A6-enabled iPad 3 is rumored to land soon, and Apple may keep the iPad 2 around at a lower price.

Digital books are still heavy. Pearson’s Biology textbook is a 2.77 GB download. We complained about iPad magazines and their absurd download sizes, but it looks like there isn’t much you can do about heavy content like images and video. When I was a kid, I often needed a bigger backpack for textbooks. Now kids will need bigger flash memory.

It’s up to schools and teachers. Pricing issue aside (and that is a huge “aside” for now), schools and teachers will obviously have to learn how to deploy and manage iPads, as well as integrate textbooks and new learning experiences into their curricula. In the current scenario, it’s very likely that kids already know how to use iPads, and their teachers will have to play catch up. On the technical side, I’d suggest schools to look for inspiration in Fraser Speirs’ experiences.

Apple doesn’t want to fix textbooks. They want to improve learning. The underlying message of today’s announcements isn’t strictly about textbooks – surely they play a big role in education, but the scope of Apple’s mission is much broader. Apple wants to re-imagine learning and improve current standards with new technologies: content management systems for classes are nothing new, but iTunes U takes it to a whole new level with a beautiful, always-connected, interactive application. There are big corporations that control the education/textbook market and who knows if they’re really willing to give Apple the leading role in this game with distribution, standardization of technologies and guidance. As Dan Frommer notes, change is not going to happen overnight but you can’t believe in paper textbooks as “the future”.

Apple’s revamped education strategy will be interesting to follow.

iBooks 2.0 Now Available

Following the announcement at the media event in New York City, Apple just released a major new version of iBooks, iBooks 2.0. As we detailed in our overview, iBooks 2.0 is mainly focused on enabling textbook support - Apple has cut deals with a series of publishers to bring iBookstore-based textbooks to the United States, and iBooks 2.0 brings full support for books created through the new Mac app, also coming today, iBooks Author.

From the changelog:

  • Experience gorgeous Multi-Touch textbooks designed for iPad
  • iBooks textbooks are filled with interactive features, diagrams, photos, and videos
  • Tap to dive into images with interactive captions, rotate 3D objects, swipe through image galleries, watch videos in full screen, and more
  • Use a finger as a highlighter when swiping over text in a textbook
  • Take advantage of Study Cards to help you memorize important highlights, notes, and glossary terms
  • Tap glossary terms to see definitions of key topics and concepts without leaving the page

It doesn’t look like iBooks’ original book and PDF reading functionalities have gone through any changes in this version. Textbooks downloaded from the iBookstore are placed in the same “Books” collection as regular titles; upon downloading a textbook on iBooks 1.5, the app will ask you to update to the latest version. Read more

Apple Announces “iBooks Author” Mac App, Available For Free Today

At its education media event in New York, Apple’s Phil Schiller just announced iBooks Author, a new Mac app for authoring books. From an intuitive interface that takes advantage of the desktop’s real screen estate, authors will be able to create and manage interactive books to use in the new iBooks 2, also announced and released today.

iBooks Author falls in line with previous speculation on a “GarageBand for eBooks”, and we’ll update this story with more details as we get them. From a demo offered on stage at the Guggenheim Museum, iBooks Author looked fairly impressive. Described by attendees as a “WYSIWYG application for building eBooks”, iBooks Author comes with a template chooser that makes it easy to get started on a new book project. Authors will then get access to a variety of tools in an interface that resembles Pages and Keynote with various controls to manage media, lay out text with drag & drop controls, and more. The automatic lay out of text seemed especially reliable from the first demo, with Apple noting that the experience they formed in making interactive animations in Keynote served as a foundation for making beautiful, interactive books without programming. Those in audience noted a few similarities to Push Pop Press’ one and only eBook experiment, released earlier this year on the iPad.

Now anyone can create stunning iBooks textbooks, cookbooks, history books, picture books, and more for iPad. All you need is an idea and a Mac. Start with one of the Apple-designed templates that feature a wide variety of page layouts. Add your own text and images with drag-and-drop ease. Use Multi-Touch widgets to include interactive photo galleries, movies, Keynote presentations, 3D objects, and more. Preview your book on your iPad at any time. Then submit your finished work to the iBookstore with a few simple steps. And before you know it, you’re a published author.

iBooks Author is rich on content. Authors can drag & drop Keynote presentations onto the main window and have the animation load inline, or embed web content via HTML5 and JavaScript. With glossaries, images, video and an overall focus on clean, easy-to-use management of interactive content, Apple described iBooks Author as a “miracle” compared to old eBook authoring tools. iBooks Author even iBookstore support built-in, and a preview function to quickly send a work-in-progress file to an iPad for instant preview. Read more

Apple Unveils iBooks 2.0 and iBooks Textbooks

Apple has just announced iBooks 2 at its education themed event in New York. It’s the next evolution of eBooks for the iPad that Phil Schiller calls “amazing — graphic, fun, engaging”. Apple also announced iBooks Textbooks, a new initiative to bring digital textbooks to students thanks to content deals with publishers, starting with the United States.

The new iBooks will support multitouch gestures to move throughout an iBook which can be full of “rich, engaging interactive experiences” — even featuring 3D models so a student can see, for example, inside a cell. In the demo iBook, switching the iPad to portrait re-orientated the content so that the student could focus on reading the text. That way, books can have two completely different experiences, simply by re-orientating the iPad.

As you can see, authors have total freedom in terms of laying out text and graphics.

The iBooks can also bring up definitions that can include images; there is search within the book, links between pages, pages can have slideshows and more. As for those end of chapter review questions that are so common in textbooks, iBooks can now feature “visual, interactive Q&A sections” that are much more engaging than the typical, long list of unengaging questions.

Note Taking

Another super critical study tool is highlighting and notetaking — your finger is always a highlighter. You just swipe. You can change the color. If you want to leave a note just tap.

With iBooks 2.0, Apple has brought a range of note taking features to help students with their study routine. There is everything from the traditional highlighting (just drag your finger over the desired text) to adding notes by tapping and then typing. An awesome feature here is that iBooks automatically takes all of your notes and highlights, chucks in any glossary terms and creates some study cards for revision.

I don’t think there’s ever been a textbook that made it this easy to be a good student.


Textbook Section in the iBookstore

These new textbook iBooks are now all available in a new ‘Textbook’ section that is on the iBookstore - all collated in one section. As is standard with iBooks, you can even get a free sample to see what the textbook is like.

These are stunning books. They take full advantage of what can be created.

Apple has worked with some partners and has brought some high school textbooks to the iBookstore and they’ll be available for $14.99 or less. Some of the publishers that have begun creating textbook iBooks includes Pearson, McGrawHill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - the three publishers that make 90% of textbooks. DK Publishing is also on board with four iBooks – they’re publishers of educational books for younger children. Finally, the E.O. Wilson Foundation is also on board, bringing the book ‘Life on Earth’ exclusively to the iBookstore - the first two chapters are available for free with the rest coming as they are completed for a “reasonable price”.

Of course, the authors can make these books and keep them up to date. But what’s most exciting is that it’s their book, for students. They keep it.


iBooks 2.0 will be available as a free update to the iBooks app today. Jump the break for Apple’s full Press Release.

Read more

Apple To Announce “GarageBand For E-Books”?

Apple is holding an education-themed media event at the Guggenheim Museum in New York on Thursday, with rumours suggesting it will heavily revolve around textbooks and the iBooks platform. Ars Technica is this morning reporting that part of the event will also be the announcement of a “GarageBand for e-books”.

The gist of this idea is that whilst anyone can create an ePub for iBooks distribution, the process is not simple - particularly if you want to go beyond the basics and add multimedia or other interactive elements. Ars Technica’s sources say Apple will announce a tool on Thursday that makes the process of creating iBooks easier. Ars points out that Apple doesn’t want to get in the textbook or book industry, just like they don’t want to enter the movie industry as content creators. Instead they have offered tools from GarageBand and iMovie to Logic and Final Cut Pro to allow anyone from consumers to professionals to create content.

The current state of software tools continues to frustrate authors and publishers alike, with several authors telling Ars that they wish Apple or some other vendor would make a simple app that makes the process as easy as creating a song in GarageBand.

Ars also believes that Apple will announce support for the ePub 3 standard in iBooks on Thursday. Apple had used the ePub 2 standard along with some HTML5-based extensions for further multimedia and interactive elements, but the new standard removes the need for the proprietary extensions - ensuring that ePubs are compatible across platforms.

[Via Ars Technica]

iBooks 1.5 Available Now, Includes Night Mode, Full-Screen Layout, New Fonts And More

A few hours ago Apple released an update to their iBooks app. Now at version 1.5, the update adds some significant features to improve the reading experience of the app. The release notes below detail those improvements:

  • Nighttime reading theme makes reading books in the dark easier on the eyes.
  • Full-screen layout lets you focus on the words without distraction.
  • iBooks now features an improved selection of fonts, including Athelas, Charter, Iowan, and Seravek.
  • Beautiful new classic covers for public domain books.
  • A redesigned annotation palette makes it easier to choose a color for your highlighted text.

You can download iBooks for free from the App Store.

iBooks 1.3 Released: Adds Read-Aloud Feature, Enhancements

A new update to iBooks for iPhone and iPad has started propagating in iTunes, bringing the app to version 1.3 after the major announcements from yesterday’s keynote, which also noted iCloud’s capability of pushing book purchases across devices with the new Automatic Downloads feature. iBooks 1.3, available here, adds a read-aloud option with real narrators’ voices to read a book to, say, your children, with some books even highlighting words as the narrator speaks. Alongside media improvements to enhanced books, the changelog reports:

  • Help your children learn to read with the new read-aloud feature included in select children’s books from the iBookstore.
  • The read-aloud feature uses a real narrator to read the book to you, and in some books, it will even highlight the words as you read along.
  • Enhanced books can now automatically play audio or video included with the book.
  • Makes iBooks more responsive when opening very long books.
  • Addresses an issue where some books may display the same page twice.

We heard last night several reports of iOS 5 beta “corrupting” books and .epub files in iBooks, so it’s likely that this update will also bring early iOS 5 compatibility and fix those issues. Get iBooks 1.3 here.

iBookstore Finally Comes To iTunes

With an update to the iTunes Store, Apple is now finally allowing iPhone and iPad users to download iBooks on their Macs, and send them to their iOS devices. Announced with a banner that just went live in the iTunes Store homepage, the new Books section is available here and, as you would expect from the feature iOS users have been asking for almost a year now, it’s simply the iBookstore available on the desktop.

You can browse Staff Favorites, add items to your Wish List, check out the “Best of the month” and “popular pre-orders”. Everything seen on the iBookstore for iOS has been ported to a new section in the iTunes Store for desktop computers, which doesn’t require an iTunes update. With the new “Automatic Downloads” functionality that went live earlier today, you’ll be able to buy a book on your computer and instantly see it available on your iPhone or iPad with a download happening in the background.

At the moment of writing this, there doesn’t seem to be a desktop iBooks app, which was rumored in the past months to be in the works as an alternative for the iOS ebook reader. Check out more screenshots below. Read more

Survey Reveals How Consumers Use Their iPad

When the iPad went on sale just over a year ago, many were unsure of what people would use it for and the uncertainty has largely continued to today, where it is still a little vague as to how a tablet fits into people’s lives. Yesterday however, Business Insider published some fascinating data on a whole range of questions that surround the iPad and how it is used. The data was collated after Business Insider issued an extensive survey, on a wide variety of issues and questions, to more than 850 people.

Their survey revealed that for about 70% of respondents, there was only 1 iPad in their household and only about 23% has 2 in the one household – less than 7% had 3 or more iPads in their household. Nearly 40% had downloaded between 20 and 50 apps, whilst 30% had downloaded more than 50 apps – with few paying for more than 20 of those apps and only 6% paying for none. Below are some of the other more interesting results but jump over to The Atlantic for all the results.

  • 87.4% did not even consider an Android tablet before buying an iPad and 90% would not consider a BlackBerry PlayBook or HP TouchPad
  • The number of people with WiFi-only or the 3G iPad is fairly evenly split (52% to 48%)
  • Only 49% subscribe to a monthly 3G data plan (of those who have a 3G iPad)
  • 40% use the iPad as their primary computer
  • The most cited reasons for use of the iPad are; web browsing (35%), using social or communication apps (22%), watching video (12%), playing games (12%) and using all other apps (20%)
  • For consuming news, 38% would use the iPad’s web browser, 34% would use a news site’s app and 28% would use an aggregator like Reeder or Flipboard.
  • 72% read e-books on the iPad, mostly on iBooks but Kindle is a close second