Is Apple Changing the Face of Textbooks?


I hate textbooks. Yes, I’m using the word “hate” here about textbooks.


Well, when I was a kid in public school, they were too big and too heavy. I still remember parents at my elementary school complaining about their kids’ back pains.

In my private high school, they were not only too big and too heavy, but now my parents had to buy them and they were very expensive. And in college, they were still too big, still too heavy and even more overpriced. The ultimate insult, however, was the fact that professors seemed to use relatively small amounts of each textbook.

What a racket!

And that’s why I’m ecstatic that Apple just marked the beginning of the end of the ridiculous status quo with its expansion of the iBooks store to include interactive iPad textbooks, in partnership with publishing giants McGraw Hill,  Pearson and Mifflin Harcourt.

Now, I don’t expect an overnight change in the textbook industry — or anything close to it. This is merely the beginning of the destruction of the old textbook industry, which is a transition to a new era that is both 1) friendly to consumers and 2) friendly to Apple’s pocketbook.

Will the cost of the iBooks offset the price of an iPad?

According to Apple’s press release, most titles for the iBooks 2 iPad app will be priced at $14.99 or less, which is cheap enough relative to standard textbooks that they”ll offset the cost of an iPad within two or three semesters.

I don’t know about you, but I think the average person would get a lot more use out of an iPad than last semester’s textbooks, which contain information readily available online 24/7.

The tablet market.

Now, as far as Apple’s profit-motive goes, it’s simple: They’re going to sell a heck of a lot of iPads to students and educational institutions in the coming years, and that means an introduction to Apple’s beautiful walled garden where all the devices and content play nice together — not to mention the 30% cut it will take off those book sales.

Plus, it’s unlikely that tablets based upon Google’s Android platform will be able to make inroads here, given the fragmentation and lack of standardization among models and its small market share, which means low familiarity among potential users.

However, there is another important part of the story here that not many folks are noticing and it might not make the aforementioned book publishers happy.

Textbooks are just the beginning.

Apple also announced today the new iBooks Author app, which “lets anyone with a Mac create stunning iBooks textbooks, cookbooks, history books, picture books and more, and publish them to Apple’s iBookstore.”

That sounds an awful lot like’s self-publishing model, which allows authors to take their ideas straight to market without dealing with a traditional publisher. I’ve argued before that Amazon and Apple will end up owning the book industry and with today’s announcement, Apple is certainly making progress towards emulating Amazon’s growing vertical integration.

At the end of the day, we should all celebrate the decimation of a very anti-consumer industry. Well done Apple and well done publishers.

This article, originally titled, “Apple Destroys the Textbook, and Thank Heavens for That,” was provided by
Image provided by Shutterstock.

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