Thoughts on education, Apple and textbooks

I have a little different view than the Twitterverse and blogosphere on the technological (which seems to be epub3/html5) and legal handcuffs surrounding Apple’s foray into textbook publishing..

As I understand it, Apple’s restrictions are on the sales of iPad-specific books – not PDFs – that are created with the free Apple publishing tool. (I guess I’ll finally have to update to Lion permanently.)

Given that these “books” are unlike any other ebook you’ve seen (except maybe Al Gore’s book or Wired’s iPad edition) — it seems to me that each book is something like a stand-alone application. It’s the thing that I don’t like about the mobile model. But. It’s the model. And it will be until there is a standard.

I’ve played around with the sample from the Biology book, and I like it, as far as it goes. It’s interactive in a somewhat meaningful if unimaginative way. And it’s a “touch” product, for sure. It’s not as interactive as I’d like — for example, it asks you to describe mouthparts and digestive systems …. but where? with pencil and paper? Oh, with the standard “note” feature, I guess. No essays for these answers. Or drawings.

I didn’t see anything that looked like it would encourage collaboration – nothing about class projects or experiments. Nothing that makes the book (it’s biology!) come alive. This is gripe about the content, not the form.

Would love to see lesson plans or the teacher version. Maybe that’s been thought out (I won’t hold my breath).

I don’t have a problem with Apple saying “if you use our free tool to make an interactive book, you must sell it in our store.” If I’m wrong, and Apple is saying that you can’t sell/distribute the PDF version anywhere else, then I will have to revisit this. In the meantime, it’s an interesting baby step with an industry loath to change.

For your reading pleasure:
+John Gruber

+Tim Carmody

+Arnold Kim

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  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    thanks kathy, great to see your thoughts on this, and thaks for the links too. It’ll be great to see people can have the full texts without having to lug 6 huge textbooks around.

    I’m with you, if there are restrictions on where the creator/author/artist can sell their work, it will be a cold day in hell that creatives give the best of their best to apple platform.

    Kindle is proprietary, but there are no restrictions; all are free to publish epub formats with b and n, kobo, sony ereader, ipad, mobi and all other platforms, only have to format twice.

    The etextbk, interactivity, in my .02, is pathetic. Until you can flip pages and see text FAST as you can w book in hand, and until you can write your notes cornell style right on the screen vis a vis Ituit tablets etc. we’ve used for years to draw on directly with direct transfer to cpu monitor.. re notetaking on ereaders thus far, t’s a gigantic fail, just based on the ridiculous amount of time it takes to bring up the blank page, type on tiny keyboard, save, and then return to main text. Then go back to write another note etc. Even if they put sidebar on face of etext, it takes up too much space still… though like apple dock if it could appear and be hidden on exact page note was referencing that would be an improvement. My A ipad 2 cant do that and its their newest instrument.

    My sense is combo analog, notes by hand on paper, and e-text on thin ereader/ ipad will be the best for now, which in fact, seems a huge leap.

    Interactivity for people who have been gaming and creating for decades as adults and as kids, ‘interactive book texts’ are not going to fly unless there are special effects that are beyond simple circle the item, point to x and have it open to y, and so on. That’s 1980s tech. And sort of like watching B scifi from the 50s w pp w tin pans on their heads. Sort of like expecting xtreme hot dogger snow bd’rs who raze 90 degree precipices to somehow go back to two wooden planks on a flattish
    terrain that can barely be called a hill.

    Thanks K!

  • ShannonLeee

    I’d rather have this than the Texas board of education dictating what goes into hard copies. Hopefully, Apple will be a better master than Rick Perry.

    Also, it will be interesting to see how Siri might play into all of this. Siri is REALLY good…no need to type anymore.

    “Siri, Who’s the man?”
    “You the man!”

    it beats mirror mirror…

  • JeffP

    I downloaded E.O Wilson’s “Biology” intro on iBooks yesterday. Haven’t had too much time to flip through but on first load it crashed, had to re-boot the iPad. Opened second time with a video, Wilson’s voice (which I thought was great since I adore the man.)

    However it reminded me of the days of Microsoft Encarta, and I had this weird feeling of actually stepping back in time rather than forward.

    I’m with ShannonLeee on the issue of options for textbooks without any single publisher deciding on “Texas Approved” status, but wonder if schools and publishers will go for the Apple standard, through an Apple app. It just doesn’t seem like the idea of competitive market opportunity. Seems like historically when the Apple 2 was pushed by the company to be the “school computer” back in the 80s it didn’t really work out that way.

    Still I applaud the idea of saving the trees. PDF with some writing functionality seems to be a more universal way to go.

  • Rcoutme

    @Shannon:

    The fact that the Texas Board of Education is likely to be a major buyer of the ebooks might very well dictate which ones are sold (just as with hard copies). I can easily see a publisher getting in league with a distributor to ensure that only one book is made ‘easily’ available. This will happen all the more likely if SOPA or PIPA goes through.

  • ShannonLeee

    Rcoutme… true, but such behavior will be much more difficult with electronic media. Creating different versions for even different school districts could be easily done and distributed. I could see a nice business model there for any publisher….customized books for each state or district.

    I think the only paper product I still read is the Economist…and that is only because I enjoy it smudging off onto my fingertips, which sometimes transfers to my face….making me look pretty stupid.