Apple launched a new e-textbook service last week that is claiming to “revolutionize the textbook industry.” With major partners as McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Houghton-Mifflin on board, the service is poised to offer a robust collection of e-textbooks in the updated iBook store. In addition to purchasing textbooks educators can create their own textbooks using iBook Author. The lure of lighter backpacks is a pretty good one.
My initial question is, how are schools going to be able to afford an iPad for every student? Will this be an expense put on parents? If Amazon starts a competing service with the Kindle Fire, price would not be as much of an issue. The Kindle Fire is less than half the price of an iPad 2.
Prior attempts at using the Kindle for textbooks have been somewhat successful with a few schools here and there using it for pilot programs. There were also attempts at using the Kindle DX to hold college textbooks because it has a bigger screen. Despite positive reviews on the programs, they never really took off.
Right now, the new e-textbook service seems to be focusing on the K-12 market with high school textbooks going for $14.99 or less. What about college textbooks? They’re the ones that students have to fork over the money for themselves. They can also be expensive. Professors have a lot more leeway on what they can teach so they will probably benefit more from iBook Author than K-12 teachers will.
I think that e-textbooks are going to play a larger role in the future, but I don’t see it taking off just yet. Aside from the price still being steep for the iPad, there is still a learning curve and adjustment period for both teachers and students. Tablets are already being used as valuable tools in education through apps. It just takes time figuring out how to utilize them the most effectively.
Will Amazon launch an e-textbook service to compete with Apple, or will it continue to appeal to the “masses” with the vast collection of books available in the Kindle Store? I would say the latter for now, because Amazon’s strategy is to reach out to everyone, not a niche market like Apple does. As e-textbooks become more mainstream and in higher demand, it will be more in Amazon’s best interest to provide them for the Kindle platform.