When invitations to Apple’s education press conference in New York went out last week, rumors spread quickly of a "Garageband for e-books," something Steve Jobs was reportedly working on before his death last October.
No more note-passing in class, kids, as Apple today announced its digital education platform. Specifically, it's launching iBooks 2 for iPad ($15 textbooks for the iPad), an expanded iTunes U app for K-12 schools, and a custom e-book authoring platform called iBooks Author.
"Education is deep in Apple's DNA and iPad may be our most exciting education product yet. With 1.5 million iPads already in use in education institutions, including over 1,000 one-to-one deployments, iPad is rapidly being adopted by schools across the US and around the world," said Philip Schiller, Apple's SVP Worldwide Marketing. "Now with iBooks 2 for iPad, students have a more dynamic, engaging and truly interactive way to read and learn, using the device they already love."
The free iTunes U app lets users:
• Access course materials including books, lecture notes, video and audio streams;
• Access already uploaded multimedia or use a simple tap to stream uploaded content;
• Access book shortcuts from iTunes U and mark assignments complete;
• Rate courses;
• Teachers can post messages to their students.
“The all-new iTunes U app enables students anywhere to tap into entire courses from the world's most prestigious universities,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s SVP Internet Software and Services, including Harvard, Oxford, Stanford, Duke and Cambridge.
“Never before have educators been able to offer their full courses in such an innovative way, allowing anyone who’s interested in a particular topic to learn from anywhere in the world, not just the classroom,” added Cue.
“The iTunes U update appears to be a new kind of university portal," commented ZDNet. "Whether or not academic institutions will want to use this free service, instead of their own online systems where they maintain full control, remains to be seen.”
Textbook publishers McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt have partnered with Apple to offer textbooks via iBooks for $14.99 or less, creating a new Apple Store category that so far includes algebra, biology, chemistry, geometry, and physics books for U.S. customers.
iBooks Author enables educators and smaller publishers to create books for the iBookstore with text and images, and movies, photo galleries and presentations can be added with multi-touch widgets.
International Business Times gives the announcement an A+, commenting:
On Thursday, Apple executed Jobs's wishes to perfection. By making the apps free and easy-to-use, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company single-handedly saved the aching backs of students all over the world. By eliminating the inefficiencies of textbooks but saving the idiosyncrasies of textbook study habits, Apple did the impossible by making textbooks interesting, interactive, and most importantly, fun.
All that’s left now is widespread adoption — and hitting the e-books.
Below, watch Apple's iBooks tour and take a closer look at the iTunes U app, and let us know what you think in the comments.