Apple of opportunities and locks

25-Jan-2012

Last week, Apple announced a new iBooks Author which lets educators and authors make their own interactive books for the iPad. It means that self publishing is becoming more accessible and easier to do than ever before.  Additionally, the company equips users with a set of tools and services which seem to revolutionise a textbooks industry.

According to the report on Mashable (http://mashable.com/2012/01/23/ibooks-sold/) more than 350,000 textbooks have been downloaded in the last three days from the latest launch, while an estimated 90,000 users downloaded the iBooks author software (Global Equities Research). It’s worth  mentioning that both are free. Looking at the numbers, it seems that the concept is catching up quickly as it not only lets creators add standard textbook content, but also spice it up with multimedia, widgets, galleries and 3D elements. It is definitely something that will take the learning and teaching processes to a different level as well as address the 21st century skills of our students. Of course, as it is with the apps sold in the Apps store, books sold in the iBooks 2 store go under certain fees. However, the big downside of the iBooks author might be the fact that the books created using the company’s software can only be sold in the iBooks 2 store and nowhere else. It basically means that Apple gets unique and very sleek content for its iBooks and makes sure that you will not be able to find it anywhere else. You can argue whether or not that’s a good thing. On the one hand, the company have invested money and time to come up with a solution to encourage self-publishing and help creative professionals so they have the right to keep the end product to themselves and take its cuts. I don’t think that there is any business which at the same time is profitable and gives its products to clients completely free of any charge.

Apple seems to be very interested in the education market and dips into its various areas. And there is nothing wrong with that as long as it helps the industry to smoothly enter the classroom of the future without putting up barriers. During the launch it was highlighted that books from the iBooks 2 store will be significantly cheaper ($14.99 or less) and as we all agree they have very attractive tools for students to use (highlight text with their fingers, make notes) the problem might be that it’s bound to one type of machine the iPad, which is still expensive (from $499).Although Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Gartner, mentions that there’s some  likelihood of prices going down, at the moment the price of iPads might put a strain on the students’ budget.  In case of university students, we know that they are on a very tight budget and as they will have a chance to save on the books they would be buying the issue would be to spend couple of hundred dollars on an iPad. Still, it might be argued that it could be an investment which will last for around 4 years of studying as well as further on. However, the big question is where to take the money from in the first place.
The situation repeats itself in case of state schools. It would be great for kids to take advantage of the technology updates and experience a very interactive and engaging learning. But the problem is who pays for the quite expensive iPads for young students. Do parents need to rearrange their budgets and spend money on a fragile device and put it into the hands of their young ones? Or maybe each institution should be responsible for equipping their students with the iPads? Should Apple introduce a scheme to help and encourage users to buy their products as they strongly limit educators to the devices they can use their books on?

We are all on the same page agreeing that those books are fun, engaging and are going to transform education, teaching and learning providing teachers and students with amazing tools. But it is still worth asking whether the company hasn’t gone too far with its limits and restrictions without carefully analyzing the real situation of students and teachers.

Joanna

 

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