Death of the Textbook?

According to Apple Insider, http://tinyurl.com/appleebook , reports are claiming that the company is on verge of launching a new ipad app which will makes standards-compliant e-book publishing as easy as recording a song in GarageBand. The launch of this app, which coincides with Apples NYC education-related media event on Thursday, will at the very least disgruntle the gargantuan education book publishing industry (which brings in annual revenue upwards of $9.3 billion) and could, in due course, revolutionise the industry as we know it.

Despite advancements in technology over the past decades, the textbook industry has remained somewhat constant and traditional. University students still fork over extortionate amounts for colossal text books that they will likely never finish reading and book shops tend to mark up the already expensive books to capitalise on this. Undoubtedly there is room in the market for some company to take a fresh approach. Enter Apple. Considering how much of their ipad strategy is geared towards children  and education I’m amazed at how taken aback i was by this news. Apple are selling tens of thousands of iPads into schools and classrooms, but what are they even doing with them? They don’t replace textbooks. This is the obvious next step. This was probably one of the original reasons for launching the iPads in the first place.

I still am unsure of where I stand on this. My immediate knee-jerk reaction was that of indignation. That this was just another stop-off on Apples one ticket ride to world domination. It just seemed too much. I began to picture scenes of clean white classrooms, identical iPads. Pristine. Clinical. Elegant but soul-less. No charmingly aging books with pages torn out, doodles of profanities and love notes scrawled across the yellowing pages.

But then I considered the situation more. Books are expensive. I went into waterstones today to buy an Economics book. I was halfway to the till before I spotted the price, £44.99, in tiny digits on the back trying not to catch my eye, as if I wouldn’t notice. £50 is hell of a lot. Especially for students from less privileged backgrounds. If this initiative would bring the cost of knowledge down as it suggests, then it wouldn’t be such a bad thing at all. Further to this is the idea of modernising education. What Apple seems to be doing is trying to foster a love of learning in children, in everyone. Everyone knows that books are boring and stuffy, right? But iPads certainly aren’t. I wrote an earlier blog post about altering education paradigms, the problem with our current system, and that it should be sparking within children a desire to learn, a thirst for knowledge in any shape or form instead of distributing readymade, examinable chunks of information. And despite my unsubstantiated dislike for the company itself, Apple do seem to be trying to do this, so I have to respect them for that.

Where do you stand on this? The death of the beloved textbook or the birth of something so much better?

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