Apple recently announced a handful of new initiatives focused on making digital books more accessible in the classroom.
The company launched a new version of its iBooks (iBooks 2) iOS application for the iPhone and iPad, which will offer highly interactive electronic textbooks, as well as a new textbook section in the iBookstore. It also debuted an updated version of its education-based service iTunes U, which gives teachers the ability to do much more than create lectures for download.
While all of these additions are great, some people are skeptical that Apple’s new initiative can do much to improve the country’s education system.
Entering the textbook industry alone is definitely worth Apple’s time if the company’s only motivation is to make money. As VentureBeat previously reported, the education book publishing industry is mammoth, bringing in annual revenue upwards of $5.5 billion for sales of lower education (Kindergarten to 12th grade) and $3.7 billion for sales of scholarly/higher education in 2010, according to statistics from the Association of American Publishers.
It’s true that Apple is a business, and the principle reason for every business is to turn a profit. But as history has proven with the iPod (a.k.a. digital music revolution), Apple’s business strategies revolve around improving an entire industry to gain long-term, stable profit. This business strategy is also how Apple plans to approach education and textbooks.
There is also plenty of proof that suggests Apple wants to revolutionize education. Dearly departed former Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs discussed the topic in Walter Issacson’s official biography of Jobs, as VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi recently pointed out. But Apple also owes much of its early success to education, as Apple marketing senior vice president Phil Schiller said at the education event today. (And for what it’s worth, I did use Mac computers almost exclusively while attending public school in the ’90s.)
Ultimately, it’s impossible to know if the American education system will improve as a result of Apple making its platforms and devices more accessible to learning or teaching in the classroom. It’s reasonable to assume that making Apple platforms/devices more education-friendly will entice more school systems to use Apple products. And it’s highly likely that when teachers or students do used these more classroom-friendly Apple devices, it will improve the learning process.
But if there’s one thing that won’t improve the U.S. education system going forward, it’s spending an exuberant and unnecessary amount of money on paper textbooks year-after-year. If nothing else, school boards across the country may eventually divert the money they spend on textbooks to spending money on Apple technology as a more efficient use of resources.
Check out the fact-filled infographic below for more information regarding Apple’s ability to save the U.S. education system.
[Infographic via Online Education]
(Click image to enlarge)