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