Anyone who’s ever lugged a backpack full of textbooks across a large college campus has fantasized of a better way of transporting content to a lecture hall. Add a laptop, chargers and other ancillary electronics to the journey, and chances are that you'll be dialing your chiropractor in short order.
Update: Breaking news- Apple to announce its move into Digital Textbooks on Jan. 19
It’s now official. Apple will be hosting an “education” event at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City on Thursday Jan 19 at 10 AM. Invitations were sent to select members of the press this week.
The invitation, which looks like a chalkboard, shows a profile of the New York City skyline with an apple wedged in its center. The text reads:
Join us for an education announcement in the Big Apple.”
The latest rumors suggest that Apple and a select group of textbook publishers will announce that students will soon be able to buy digital textbooks from the iTunes store.
At some universities carrying such heavy loads is no longer necessary: textbooks, handouts, syllabuses, dictionaries and sometimes even lectures are available digitally -- and can be consumed via an iPad, Kindle, tablet computer or eReader device.
Cool as this is, it’s yesterday’s news.
Media Event = Something Big?
It's not the kind of thing Apple would hold a media event to talk about unless they planned to add a substantial enhancement or introduce something truly innovative and new. It's doubtful that something as bland as adding a few titles to iBooks or releasing a new series of lectures to iTunes University would cut it.
So, the question among digital industry pundits like Kara Swisher of All Things D, Michael Rose of TUAW (The Unofficial Apple Weblog) and TechCrunch’s Alexia Tsotsis is what the folks from Cupertino will be promoting at the event Apple is expected to hold in New York later this month.
NOTE: In its usual style, Apple hasn’t provided any information about what they’ll be announcing, but industry insiders seem confident that it will be about iBooks and/or iTunes University because the event is being held in New York, the home of the publishing industry, and because if it were a technology-related announcement (Mac, iPhone, iPad, iTouch, iTV) it would be made in Cupertino or San Francisco.
Kindle Still Takes the Lead
According to Steve Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson, one of Jobs’ last goals was to revolutionize books. Apple hasn’t been the one to do that thus far. Industry analysts say that Amazon and its Kindle line-up always seems to be at least one step ahead on the e-books front.
This leaves industry onlookers debating whether it’s a closer relationship with a greater number of publishers, who are rumored will be present at the event, that Apple will be talking about, or if they’ll announce that iBooks and Newstand will now be available on OSX (and therefore on Macs).
In either case, Apple would be playing catch-up with Amazon, whose books, once you buy them, are yours to consume on any platform (eReader, Kindle, iPad, Windows or Apple computer, smartphone) and which you can lend to your friends to read on their e-Readers. Not only that, but according to GigaOm, the recently released Kindle for iPad/iPhone app also outshines iBooks because it offers Amazon customers features like “print replica textbooks” (students who are viewing their content in digital format can be on the same page as their classmates who are reading hard copies), the ability to rent and lend e-books, etc.
The Kindle Store also offers its customers a much greater number of books, newspapers, magazines and blogs to choose from -- more than one million as compared to iBooks approximately 700,000.
Holding a media event to announce any of the aforementioned would be a bit of disappointment to Apple-enthusiasts; it’s difficult to imagine Jobs jumping up on stage to say “Yippee, we finally caught up with Amazon and, oh by the way, our interface is bigger and prettier.”
We’ve come to expect more of Apple.
Jobs told Isaacson that one of his main goals in life was to revolutionize textbooks and learning. So, if the Apple event being held later this month is indeed about publishing, maybe we’ll get to see what Jobs meant when he said “revolution."
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