Apple's event was first rumored to be a self-publishing venture then called an "education" venture. It turned out to be both. Apple is launching iBooks 2, a new multimedia textbook platform and iBooks Author, a shockingly easy authoring tool to create them – indeed to create any kind of book – and publish them instantly to the iBookstore. Both the new iBooks 2 app and iBooks Author app are free and available today.
On top of all that, iBooks 2 textbooks will be priced at $14.99 or less. The new iBooks 2 app will provide the usual access to the iBookstore but will also feature a new category: textbooks. But these aren't your father's textbooks. They feature beautiful layouts, endless multimedia (audio, video, animation, animated 3D models, interactive quizzes, the list goes on). And iBooks Author makes it really easy--any author can follow the template or make up a new one and drag-and-drop prepared materials like text and video right into the new book. Once complete, a push of the button places it in the iBookstore in a digital marketplace holding hundreds of millions of credit card numbers.
But make no mistake, while this is a breakthrough in transforming how textbooks are created and distributed, the iBooks 2 format (and iBooks authoring tool) can and will be used to create any kind of media enriched book along with the ability to instantly publish it to the iPad platform. Indeed the Apple spokesperson demoing the new product said, "Anyone who has ever been involved in creating an e-book knows that this is now incredibly easy."
The iBookstore textbook category will launch with high school textbooks from Pearson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill and DK, generally in the categories of biology, algebra and math. Apple is also launching with a new biology text created in the iBooks 2 format, Life on Earth by acclaimed biologist E.O. Wilson, which will be available exclusively in the iBookstore. The book will be free and there will be additional chapters to come, for-pay.
In addition, Apple is relaunching iTunes University with a new free app. Originally focused on offering videos of university lectures, the new iTunes U app will make it possible for professors to offer full online courses, complete with assignments, notes and communications with the students, all situated on iTunes U and all for free. Several universities, including Duke and Yale, have already started posting course.
Apple spokesperson Phil Shiller said, "Apple has always existed at the intersection of liberal arts and technology and we think technology has a role to play in helping learning."