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After revolutionizing the digital music business, smartphones and tablets, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs was planning to take on an unlikely project: textbooks.

Jobs apparently wanted to hire textbook writers to create interactive digital versions of their books for the iPad, the New York Times is reporting based on information from the upcoming Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson.

The Times was one of many news organizations that got its hands on the biography last night, which goes on sale Monday, Oct. 24. The book sheds light on several stories about Jobs, like the fact that he refused potentially life-saving cancer treatment early on.

Jobs held meetings with publishers about working together with Apple on the new digital textbooks. He proposed the idea of giving away the books for free on the iPad, which would have allowed publishers to get around state certifications for textbooks. (Not being too familiar with the textbook business myself, I’m not sure what the advantage would be for publishers.)

Jobs believed that states would be facing a weak economy over the next decade, and that Apple could offer them a way to save money by circumventing the certification process.

Apple would have had plenty of company from others companies looking to revolutionize the textbook industry, including Kno, which launched an iPad app for textbooks earlier this year after dropping plans for its own tablet. There’s also digital textbook creator Inkling, which aims to create interactive tablet textbooks with social features.

Photo by Matt Yohe

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