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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Apple takes on textbooks with iBooks 2, iBooks Author and iTunes U app

By Mark Brown

At a press conference in New York, Apple has revealed its next target: the humble school textbook.

It has released iBooks 2, an updated version of the e-reader app that introduces functionality for educational textbooks on iPad. That includes animations, diagrams, photos and videos, as well as interactive 3D objects to give you a model of the solar system or let you peer at a strand of double-helix DNA.

The books support highlighting and note-taking, searching and definitions, plus lesson reviews and study cards. Textbook makers can also keep the content up to date, lopping off demoted planets or adding in new elements.

Textbook authors like McGraw-Hill and Pearson have already delivered educational titles to the iBookstore in the US, with most priced at about $14.99 (£10) or less. In the UK we get books from Wilson Digital and DK, with more in the works.

"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 senior vice president of worldwide marketing.

"Now with iBooks 2 for iPad, students have a more dynamic, engaging and truly interactive way to read and learn."

Apple also released iBooks Author, a free self-publishing tool that's available on the Mac App Store. It's not just for textbooks, either: you can make "cookbooks, history books, picture books and more," and then publish them to the iBookstore.

The toolkit comes with some spiffy Apple-designed templates, and then you can add your own text and images, and use multi-touch widgets to add interactive photo galleries, movies, Keynote presentations and 3D objects. If you hook up an iPad you can whizz the book or page to your tablet to see it in the flesh.

In the final blow of its education barrage, Apple released an iTunes U app for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. This gives you instant access to that bumper selection of free educational content from schools around the world.

The app lets teachers create and manage courses (it offers up lectures, assignments, books, quizzes and syllabuses) using content from top universities like Cambridge, Duke, Harvard, Oxford and Stanford.

Wired Magazine

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