Is Apple learning a lesson over the Steve Jobs dream: iPad textbooks?


By Noel Young, Correspondent

March 4, 2012 | 3 min read

Apple's next big idea of digital textbooks in classrooms equipped with iPads has run into a snag: cost.

Steve Jobs: textbook dream

The company had hoped to corner the huge, lucrative text book market. "But the high costs of the plan and the challenges of mobile technology could ensure that hardback books remain a classroom mainstay," reports the San Jose Mercury News.

The Steve Jobs vision was to transform the multibillion-dollar textbook industry. In January, Apple announced iBook 2, a digital textbook service in partnership with three big schoolbook publishers.The electronic books will sell for $14.99, around £10.

"It sounds like an irresistible deal for the dazzling, interactive books that Apple touts. But it would require a huge investment in technology at a time of shrivelling school budgets," says the Mercury News.

It's not just the $499 iPad price in the US -- $475 if purchased in batches of 10.

The MercuryNews published a chart showing the overall cost of the iPad plan compared with traditional textbooks. Over six years the IPad strategy would cost $36,000 per student - compared with $11,326 for the print textbooks.

Asked if Apple would consider cutting prices for the iBook, as it's calling its digital textbooks, for bulk purchases, spokeswoman Christine Monaghan said, "It's $14.99 and you're asking for a discount?"

Ann Dunkin, technology director for the Palo Alto schools, is an Apple fan -- but of the iBook plan she said, "They're killing themselves. Most districts are going to opt out of that model. Everybody's going to go to open-source textbooks" -- which are free.

Publishers say that the iBook offers so much more than a hardcover book, it's not fair to compare prices.

"iBooks re-imagine how we present core materials," said Deb Bonanno, senior vice president for Pearson, one of Apple's partners.

With the iBooks, students can view objects in three dimensions, individualise lessons and view related videos.

Many schools are going ahead with iPads, even without the iBook 2 textbook service. Despite Apple's name, "districts shouldn't get crazed by technology. They should figure out what they want, then work backward," one expert told the Mercury News . "The iPad is getting a huge amount of attention, a lot of districts are spending money on it, but they haven't thought out why."


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