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Saturday, January 21, 2012

MONEY AND IT BUSINESS: Apple's iBooks2: a revolution in education, but not a silver bullet for publishers


 
Apple’s iBooks2 platform has received some breathless coverage since it was announced on Thursday. The Atlantic’s Megan Garber, for example, called it “a new educational paradigm” and “transformative”. There are, however, many issues with the textbooks aspect of this platform, as Venture Beat’s Devindra Hardawar examines.
But I’ll leave those discussions to people more familiar with the realities of education. Instead, I want to look at some of the issues around the platform for other types of publisher, because if you were thinking that Apple’s new iBook Author software could be a great leap forward for you as a small or self-publishers, you probably need to think again.
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 19:  Apple's new iBooks...
EO Wilson's Life on Earth is one of the free samples available in iBooks2
The key issue is the EULA, or “end user license agreement”, which is the agreement you automatically sign up to when you open a bit of software for the first time, regardless of whether you agree with it, or have even read it. ZDNet’s Ed Bott took at look at iBooks Author’s EULA and what he found is, well, you might want to get yourself a stiff drink and sit down before we go on. When Bott says, “I have never seen a EULA as mind-bogglingly greedy and evil as Apple’s EULA for its new ebook authoring program,” he means it.
By agreeing to the EULA you agree that if you create a book using Apple’s iBooks Author you can only do two things with it:
  1. Give it away for free anywhere
  2. Sell it via Apple’s iBooks store.
You may not sell your iBooks Author-created ebook in any other store. For their part, Apple do not guarantee that your book will actually be accepted into the iBooks store. If it does not, you cannot attempt to sell it elsewhere, you can only give it away or scrap the file.
Says Dan Wineman, “So, to paraphrase: By using this software, you agree that anything you make with it is in part ours.”
Now, it’s true that the prohibition applies only to the file created by iBooks Author, not the underlying content, so you could go through the process twice with a different bit of software and publish those books elsewhere. But you can’t save your iBooks Author file as a .mobi or .epub, and because they are using a non-standard format you can’t create a .ibooks file in other software. Apple are betting that people will take the exclusivity clause rather than doubling the amount of layout work needed to sell in all stores.
My work isn’t multimedia, but if it was the question I would have is, why make an iPad-only multimedia offering when I can use HTML5 and a service like PugPig to create a cross-platform multimedia app? I can make an app for the iPad, iPhone and Android, blending the best bits of HTML5 with the best bits of native apps, without compromising on quality or having to re-code the wheel.
The vast majority of work in any multimedia app/book is the creation of all the assets. Apple’s iBooks Author supposedly makes the building of ebooks easier, but there are HTML5 authoring tools such as Adobe Edge around too. If you’re going to task someone with learning how to use Apple’s software, you might as well give them the time to learn HTML5 instead; they’ll bring much more value to your business by learning skills that are more broadly applicable.
For Apple’s launch partners, including Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Houghton-Mifflin, it all makes great sense. They know that online resources compete directly with their textbooks for the attention of students and, with education budgets under pressure, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that textbook turnover is also declining.
Getting schools and universities to swap to a once-per-year purchase of one ebook per student at $15 a pop gives them a lock-in they could previously only dream of. Apple, of course, will be happy to take their cut of each sale, but is likely more interested in selling lots of iPads and get educational institutions locked-in to their iOS platform. Once a school has gone the route of iBooks on iPads, they’ll be in hardware and software upgrade hell forever.
But what we need right now in the ebook publishing industry is not more lock-in and more restrictive practices. It’s difficult enough to deal with the way that Amazon throws its weight around without having to do extra work to accommodate Apple’s control-freakery.
For the market to flourish, we need ebook distributors who respect standards and publishers alike. Right now, though, we’re stuck with near-monopoly rent-seekers.

How Will Teachers Pay For Apple's New iBooks? Sites Like DonorsChoose.Org


The single biggest question surrounding Apple’s Thursday announcement of its new iBooks textbooks is how teachers and schools will be able to buy enough iPads to make the initiative a success. After all, interactive, touch-friendly iPad books will only benefit students if schools can afford to make iPads widely available. While the new books will be much cheaper than regular textbooks, iPad prices remain $499 to $829, depending on connectivity options and amount of storage.

Apple's new iBooks 2 textbooks are touch-friendly and interactive -- but require an iPad. Teachers and schools may need to raise money for the devices themselves.
One way to help bridge the gap: nonprofits like DonorsChoose.org, which matches donors with teachers in need of supplies. The New York-based organization is already predicting a spike in teacher requests for iPads following Thursday’s news. Such a surge is “certain” to happen, said DonorsChoose.org Founder and Chief Executive Charles Best in an interview.

Apple devices are already in great demand at DonorsChoose.org, which lets U.S. public school teachers list classroom projects and needed resources on its site. Donors can browse the project summaries online and make contributions via credit card or PayPal. The donations are aggregated until the requested amount is raised. At that point, DonorsChoose.org steps in to buy the classroom materials. The items are shipped directly to the appropriate school.
On the DonorsChoose.org website, there are currently 439 listings that include iPads and iPad accessories. One typical example: a first-grade teacher in Little Rock, Ark. who wants an iPad 2 for “independent practice in reading, writing, and math [and] whole group instruction.”
“Many of my students do not have a home computer,” the teacher notes in her proposal. “[An iPad 2] will prepare them for a future of using technology.”
Such listings are proliferating on DonorsChoose.org. During the 2009-2010 school year, Apple products made up $50,000 or 0.2% of all the classroom supplies DonorsChoose.org purchased on behalf of its registered teachers, said Best.
The following year, that amount increased 16 times. During the 2010-2011 school year, Apple products made up $800,000 or 3.2% of all the classroom supplies DonorsChoose.org purchased.
Best attributes the huge year-over-year boost in Apple device requests and fulfillments to the April 2010 launch of the original iPad. (DonorsChoose.org measures school years from July 1 to June 30.) The organization is currently in the middle of its 2011-2012 school year but already sees that figure rising. So far, Apple products make up 3.3% of DonorsChoose.org’s 2011-2012 classroom orders, according to Best.
Some of those products were other Apple devices, such as iPod touches and MacBook laptops but Best said the majority were iPads. “A really large number of teachers contact us offline testifying how valuable iPads are for their students,” he said. Teachers of special-needs classes have particularly found the iPad’s touchscreen and easy-to-use software makes a “monumental difference” in their students’ education, he added.
There’s a lot more teacher interest in iPads than DonorsChoose.org’s statistics indicate. The site requires teachers to be proactive about listing their projects and communicating with donors. That number is growing but is far from including the majority of teachers. Best said about half of all U.S. public schools have at least one teacher who has posted a project on DonorsChoose.org since the site went live in 2000.

The organization’s numbers also only count project requests that get fully funded and result in actual product orders. DonorsChoose.org says there are 20,000 requests live on its site at any given moment. It expects to direct $40 million in donations to 80,000 classroom project requests this year.
That’s a lot of supplies but one nonprofit isn’t going to be able to put iPads in masses of public schools. (Apple’s not starting from scratch, though. At its Thursday press conference, the company said 1.5 million iPads are already being used in schools.)
In a Jan. 19 note to investors, Barclays Capital analyst Ben Reitzes wrote that budget constraints could slow “Apple’s long-term goal of revolutionizing education” in K-12 schools. But Reitzes added that the new iBooks 2 textbooks could also help Apple attract public funds for iPad purchases.

Recommended from the Web:
Hyperink's E-Book Model Turns Publishing On Its Head

Reitzes also noted that iPads and iBooks textbooks will be an easier sell to college students who will benefit more from the cost savings over traditional textbooks.

For a graphical overview on whether ‘Apple Can Save Education’, including statistics on U.S. public schools and how technology can affect learning, check out this infographic.
How can teachers get funds to bring iPads into their classrooms? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Apple Unveils iBooks 2; Interactive Textbooks Are Here

 
At an event at the Guggeheim Museum in New York this morning, Apple launched iBooks 2, a new version of its digital books format that includes new features to make textbooks interactive. The company also is launching a revamped version of iTunes U,  for online courses, opening the service to K-12 teachers.
The new version of iBooks allows the addition of interactive elements and multimedia features. The company also launched a WYSIWIG authoring application for the Mac for creating interactive books called iBooks Author. The program is available today for free.
Apple is launching a new category in the iBooks store for interactive textbooks, with an initial focus on high school texts, with pricing at $14.99. Initial publishing partners are Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Pearson, and McGraw Hill, which according to Apple marketing guu Phil Schiller together control 90% of the textbook market.

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