Steve Jobs wanted to do to education what he did for music, phones and tablet computers. Apple's new textbooks was his Next Big thing (or one of them). They want to change the way students access education material with their new iBooks 2.
This is what they're doing.
Apple — and most teachers — thinks that schools "need a reset." According to Phil Schiller, who is presenting this now in New York City's Guggenheim museum, they can't fix it, but they can help. Apple believes that current books are not good enough: too big and heavy, not durable or interactive. That's why they are coming out with iBooks 2.
All the iBook 2 features are going to be available in every book, not just textbooks. This is probably the best news of this announcement. Here are the key features:
Interactive graphics and built-in videos: The new textbooks — and any iBook 2-compatible book I guess — would be able to use all the features that any application can use. Instead of just text and photos, they will include multitouch, video, thumbnail navigation and interactive objects.
Thumbnail navigation: You would be able to go through books using a visual index, with thumbnails marking the sections of the book.
Custom glossary: They also include a feature similar to the current iBook's dictionary, in which you will access each textbook's custom glossary by highlighting words.
Quizzes and review questions: Another cool feature that I'm sure students will love are the instant quizzes built-in into the textbooks. The quizzes and review questions are built right into each book.
Study cards: This is another really neat feature. The app will automatically turn your highlights and notes into study cards. This will also be useful for any kind of research, if it's available for every book through the iBooks 2 app. The current iBook highlighting and note taking is very limited when it's time to review whatever notes you actually took down. Their study cards, which are like virtual paper study cards, will help a lot here.
Apple is also releasing a new application for Mac OS X called iBooks Author. This is the app anyone could use to create iBooks compatible with the new iBooks 2.
It works like Apple's iWorks applications — which is not a surprise, knowing that iWork's chief Roger Rosner is in charge of this. It basically takes any content iWork will accept, which includes text, shapes, graphics, video and even entire Keynote presentations that are fully animated. The app is compatible with Word too, which is a must in a world dominated by Office.
From the demo — he just created a basic textbook in five minutes — it seems like this could be a winner for everyone, not only big publishing companies. The app will be free, and it's available today at the Mac App Store.
Apple has an iPad app for higher education too, called iTunes U. It looks like iBooks too on a mahogany bookshelf, but it's not just for college books. The app has entire digital courses from universities, organising all the currently available course contents and adding some more, like apps. Professors would be able to easily share notes with students as well as other materials.
Some universities — including Duke, Stanford and Yale in the US — are already using the new software. Apple claims that they have already created more than one hundred of these digital courses, which are available to students for free.