Apple is slated to announce the fruits of their labor on helping the usage of technology in education at its special media event on Thursday, January 19. While speculation has to date devoted to digital textbooks, sources near the matter have confirmed to Ars that Apple will announce tools to aid create interactive e-books-the “GarageBand for e-books,” to speak-and expand its current platform to distribute these toiPhone and iPad users.
With the details we were able to gather from our sources, we also spoke to two experts in the field of digital publishing to get a clearer picture from the significance of what Apple is going to announce.
Thus far, Apple has largely embraced the ePub 2 standard for the iBooks platform, though it has added numerous HTML5-based extensions to allow the inclusion of audio and video for a few limited interaction. The recently-updated ePub 3 standard obviates the necessity for these proprietary extensions, which sometimes make iBook-formatted e-books incompatible along with other e-reader platforms. Apple is anticipated to announce support for your ePub 3 standard for iBooks to come.
GarageBand for e-books
As well, however, authoring standards-compliant e-books (despite some promises to the contrary) is not as simple as owning a Word document of the manuscript via a filter. The current state of software tools continues to frustrate authors and publishers alike, with several authors telling Ars that they wish Apple or some other vendor would create a simple app that produces the task as simple as setting up asong in GarageBand.
Our sources say Apple will announce this type oftool on Thursday.
And Inkling CEO Matt MacInnis agrees that this type of move would be most likely. MacInnis previously worked on education projects at Apple before leaving the company during the past year to pursue their own ideas about creating interactive digital books. Inkling currently supplies a variety of digital textbooks with interactive features, such as power toshare notes with classmates and instructors, via an iPad app.
“When you approach what Apple is doing… they’re selling tens of thousands of iPads into K-12 institutions,” MacInnis told Ars. “What are they doing with those iPads? They don’t really replace textbooks, because there’s not significant content available,” he was quoted saying.
Don’t expect that content to come completely from Apple, however. “Practically speaking, Apple won’t have to get into the content publishing business,” MacInnis said. Such as the music and movie industries, Apple has instead built a distribution platform along with hardware to take it-but Apple isn’t an increasinglabel or production studio.
But what Apple provides is industry-leading tools for content production, such as Logic or Final Cut Pro, to assist create content. The business also produces tools like GarageBand or iMovie that produce such production available to a lotwider audience.
Will Apple launch a sort of GarageBand for e-books? “That’s what we should believe you’re planning to see,” MacInnis told Ars (and our other sources agree). “Publishing something to ePub is incredibly comparable to publishing information. Remember iWeb? That iWeb code didn’t just get flushed down the toilet-I think you’ll see a number of [that code] repurposed.”
Mobile, social learning
Technology-in-education expert Dr. William Rankin also believes e-books will expand with tools that will enable social interactions among textbook users. Rankin, who can serve as Director of Educational Innovation of Abilene Christian University and contains extensively researched using cellular phones within the classroom, was among three authors of an white paper on the connection between digital convergence on learning titled “Code/X,” published last year.
For the reason that document, Rankin and the colleagues organized their vision money of learning, including an always-on, always-networked digital device known as a “Talos.” That device developed into much like the iPad that Apple announced just half a yearlater.
“What we had coming would have been a change in the kinds of places that learning happens,” Rankin told Ars. Since device would be with all the student, it would offer her entry to information anytime and anywhere. “For that, you need a different sort ofbook.”
Such digital texts would let students interact with information in visual ways, for instance 3D models, graphs, and videos. They will also allow students to generate links to additional texts, audio, and othersupporting materials. Furthermore, students could share those connections with classmates and colleagues.
“What we really believe is essential is the role of social network inside a converged learning environment,” Rankin told Ars. “We’re already since in Inkling’s platform, and Kno‘s journaling feature. Future digital texts should allow students to layer all type of other data, including pictures, and notes, after which it share by purchasing the categoryor, ideally, anyone.”
Exactly howwhat Apple announces on Thursday will impact digital publishing isn’t certain, however.
“Think about how precisely meaningful simply authoring and publishing with an iPad is going to be for K-12,” MacInnis said. “However, may well be ideal formolecular biology.”
MacInnis sees Apple as possibly up-ending the standard print publishing model for the low-end, where basic information has for quite some time remained locked behind high textbook prices. Apple can “kick up dust while using education market,” that may then create visibility for platforms like Inkling. This might then function as type ofprofessional Logic-type tool for interactive textbook creation complement to Apple’s “GarageBand for e-books.”
“There would have been a spectrum of tools and consumers, and we will continue to fit on that spectrum,” MacInnis opined. “I don’t know if your publishing industry will react to it with fear or enthusiasm.”
Steve Jobs’ pet project Could that former Apple CEO Steve Jobs was working on addressing learning and digital textbooks for a long time, according to Walter Issacson’s biography. Jobs thought that textbook publishing was an “$8 billion a yearindustry ripe for digital destruction.”
Based on our sources close to his efforts, however, Jobs’ personal involvement was perhaps more significant that even his biography purports. Jobs done this project for a long period, and our understanding is the final outcome was slated to be announced in October 2011 in conjunction with the iPhone 4S. Those plans were postponed at the last minute, perhaps on account ofJobs’ imminent death.
Despite the delay, however, ACU’s Rankin believes it’s about time for something different to take place in the field. “We’re headed toward an entirely digital future at ACU,” he told Ars. “A recent study showed that 82 percent of advanced schooling students nationwide arrive to campus having a smartphone. We should instead have resources and tools ready for these mobile, connected students.”