Apple’s out to fix another broken industry, same as they did with music and cellular phones. This time it’s textbooks, and I’ll let Apple tell you why it’s needed, and why the Apple solution is the right one. Here are a couple of links that tell the story: this one is a promotional video, and this one is the entire introductory event from last week.
One very interesting part of Apple’s plan is that just about anyone can publish a book in Apple’s iBookstore. You don’t have to be a big-time publishing company, or even a small-time publishing company. You could be, for example, a Mac, iPhone, and iPad consultant with cowboy boots who wants to publish a book of Mac, iPhone, and iPad tips. You can sell your books or you can give them away (or both). It’s up to you. Read all about it here.
Apple’s created a Mac application to help you create beautiful books. It’s called iBooks Author, and you can download it for free by clicking here. The app looks a lot like Pages, so if you know how to use that one, you’re going to have no trouble making books. iBooks Author is loaded with great templates and a lot of other stuff that will help you make beautiful books with minimal trouble. You will need Mac OS X Lion to run iBooks Author, by the way.
iBooks Textbooks could be a game-changer. It’s way better than a PDF, partly because PDFs can’t be re-flowed when the reader changes the font size or rotates the page. It’s also way better than “publishing” materials as web pages, mostly because web technologies are not suited to precise layouts and ease of use. With iBooks, you feel as if you are directly manipulating the pages, and that’s way better than reading something in a browser. So, people who used to publish books as PDFs and web pages now have a better platform for their work. There’s no reason to shoe-horn a beautiful book into PDF or web page form, not anymore.
It happens that I really like “real” books. But, having read several books on my iPad, I’m already seeing the value and advantages of digital books. Apple’s iBooks Author is going to help a lot more people get on the digital book bandwagon. It’s not the end of books as we know it but it might be the beginning of the end of textbooks as they’ve been for generations. File this away and let’s see how things turn out a couple of years from now.
In the meantime: if you have an iPod Touch, an iPhone, or an iPad, click here to get the new iBooks 2.0 app. While you’re at it, try this link for an eye-popping collection of iTunes U courses, made for the iBooks app. Don’t know about iTunes U? Click here to read my article about it, and click here to read what Apple has to say. Warning: if iBooks Textbooks doesn’t make you want an iPad, iTunes U will. It’s that cool.