In January 2012, Apple launched their free iBooks2 app (for use in interacting with digital textbooks) and iBooks author, an app that lets publishers write their own digital books. Apple’s intent was to create a digital textbook market with the iPad as its platform. The K-12 education market alone is estimated at $8 billion, with 50 million K-12 students in public schools in the U.S.
Although it’s still early to determine the success of the iBook movement, more than 4.5 million iPads have been sold to schools in America and more than 10,000 books have been authored using iBooks Author. Most of these books have been created for colleges and universities, with the number of books diminishing as you go down in grades. Middle school textbooks in digital form are not largely available.
But the digital textbooks that are available are getting high grades from the teachers who use them. The interactivity of these books, simplicity of purchase and the ease of quickly distributing digital content will make providing content much easier for teachers. Students can also use the iBooks Author tool to create multimedia presentations, which can be easily shared using AirPlay over Apple TV.
Now that the iPad mini is available (starting at $329), iPads are also becoming a less expensive investment for classrooms. Digital content is cheaper to produce than print content — compare the cost of a traditional textbook ($100) to an iBook at $14.99.
What’s next for classroom textbooks? It’s hard to say whether or not all grades will adopt to digital technology for educational content, but it’s clear that the benefits are there for educators and they want digital formats for their students.