Apple Just Re-Invented Books

Tim Bajarin / January 19th, 2012

This morning’s announcement from Apple about creating tools for interactive textbooks is actually a landmark announcement for four major reasons.

The first is how these tools can impact education. Ben wrote a good piece on this so I won’t elaborate on this too much here, other than to say that these tools will completely re-define how textbooks can be created and distributed. It is ideal for higher Ed textbooks but Apple and their major publishing partners are even doing high school level interactive books that should push iPads into education circles even faster.

Related Columns: Why the iPad is an Investment in your Child’s Future

The second thing iBook Author does is lay the groundwork for non-education publishers to create interactive eBooks as well. But, as Phil Schiller pointed out at the iBook 2 announcement event in NYC today, this tool can be used to create any book of any kind, not just interactive books. This free authoring tool is a major step towards making Apple not only a publisher in their own right but a distributor as well as delivering the hardware platform optimized for enhanced eBooks in general.

While the first push with these tools will be to educational authors, it won’t be long until mainstream authors start using these tools and use the iBookstore as their preferred distribution medium. And since these tools are so easy to use, authors who only write text-based content will begin playing with the integration of color drawings, illustrations and other media to enhance their story lines, which will only work properly on an iPad.

The third thing these tools do is give Apple a serious competitive advantage over other tablet vendors. The iPad is already the leading tablet, but by developing these rich authoring tools for creating interactive and enhanced eBooks for the iPad, it makes the iPad even more interesting to consumers and eBook readers from all angles. To date, Apple has sold about 70+ million iPads and we expect them to sell at least that many in 2012. This means that they are rapidly increasing their user base, which in turn becomes more attractive as an eBook publishing and distribution platform for all types of authors. This move really distances them from any other tablets on the market

But the 4th thing these tools could do is quite interesting. It has the potential of doing to the publishing industry what Apple did to the music industry. Although Apple did not invent the MP3 player, they re-invented it and then created the iTunes store, which with the iPod, became the # 1 vehicle for digital music distribution. Today, Apple owns 75-80% of the MP3 player market even though many others have tried to duplicate their success. But they created the iPod, the tools and the distribution medium for digital music that helped Apple own that market. Yes, music is now available on smartphones, but it took Apple’s competitors almost a decade to replicate their success and even then, it had to come on a completely different digital device.

Now Apple has a chance to re-invent eBooks by delivering a complete eco system of hardware, software development tools for creating next generation interactive eBooks, a publishing and distribution medium and a powerful hardware device for delivering this optimized content. On the surface this looks like a major move to get Apple more entrenched into the education market. But I see it as Apple’s first move to disrupt the entire publishing industry. If Apple’s does this properly, they could become the largest publisher and distributor of eBooks and in many ways, change the economics and overall distribution of eBooks in the future.

One more thing. If Apple was concerned about Amazon’s Kindle Fire and even Amazon’s role as a publisher and distributor of eBooks, they aren’t anymore. In fact, this is Apple’s response to the Kindle Fire and Amazon’s overall position as an eBook distributor. The key reason is that with these tools, Apple will completely raise the expectations of what should be in an eBook in the future by pushing the idea that all eBooks should have some type of rich interactive format that delivers an enhanced reading experience.

Of course, the Android or even Windows 8 tablet crowd could respond in kind, but at the very least, Apple has a two-year head start on them and given the competitors track record in trying to catch Apple that lead in this area could even be longer.

I also think that this probably signals that a lower cost iPad is on the way. For Apple to really get iPads into education and leverage this new interactive eBook development platform, they will need to have some models with lower prices. Given the tight budgets of schools and families who could really use something like this to help their kids education, iPads will need to be much more affordable if Apple is going to “own” this segment of the tablet market.

Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.
  • crustyjusty

    I agree on the need for a lower-cost iPad. Maybe we’ll see $300 for an 8-16GB model in March. One challenge is going to be the fact that each of these books is in the hundreds of MBs if not around 1GB. Add video lectures and other content and you will quickly run out of space. How can school districts balance the cost with the space requirements for a typical student?

    • synthmeister

      iCloud
      Apple doesn’t count the size of your photo/music/media library against your iCloud allotment.

    • ah, much of that content can be streamed, these are 802.11n devices which is about the same speed as 100BaseT, so the actual size of the book can be small. all this has been thought out for 2.5 decades, the usage is balanced. these are designed for K-16 where it’s a campus setting, just like where you find textbooks now. no worries.

      • Assuming your connection to “the cloud” is that fast. Most aren’t.

  • synthmeister

    Apple has a chance to re-invent eBooks by delivering a complete eco system of hardware, software development tools for creating next generation interactive eBooks, a publishing and distribution medium and a powerful hardware device for delivering this optimized content. On the surface this looks like a major move to get Apple more entrenched into the education market. But I see it as Apple’s first move to disrupt the entire publishing industry.

    Exactly! E-pub ecosytem specifically designed for schools for now but many, many future options. This could be used by music publishers as well, for example, not mention, graphic artists or novelists. Imagine if Steven King decided that from now on he would only publish this way.

    • Wow, music ibooks -I hadn’t thought of that. And I’ll bet that there are thousands upon thousands of other creative ideas that will spring into life with the advent of the new iBook author.

  • RyanNT137

    If I wanted to interact with a medium, I’d play video games or watch a movie. Apple has not “re-invented” books; what it has done is created a new medium that’s somewhere between text and film. It’s a sort of lesser gaming device, and whoever it may appeal to, it won’t appeal to serious readers.

    I’m not talking about the “readers” that are into Twilight or Picoult; those are easily impressed. Perhaps they’ll make the switch. But anyone who’s truly into literature cares more about what’s in the book than the physical or digital nature of the book. Anything beyond an E-Book reader is a pricey waste of time. I’ll stick to iBooks, and I feel no inclination towards interactive E-Books.

    • Ryan:

      you said: “a medium that’s somewhere between text and film” brillant, but then, “a lesser gaming device, and whoever it may appeal to, it won’t appeal to serious readers” is woefully ignorant…

      look around the page of this very comment you are reading… it’s filled with text and film.

      Apple’s OSX is what spawned the world wide web back in 1990ish, (based on Apple’s HyperCard) and this is the most modern extension.

      basically, “book” lovers can now join the party like “music” lovers have enjoyed for over a decade.

      put up a text / book for .99 cents and see what happens…

      w w w . apple . c o m /ibooks-author/

    • “…what (Apple) has done is created a new medium that’s somewhere between text and film. It’s a sort of lesser gaming device, and whoever it may appeal to, it won’t appeal to serious readers”-RyanNT137

      What a bizarre take. Serious readers read text only ebooks now. At the very least, the new iBook author allow you to create text only ebooks. At most, the new books would add additional interactive elements. Why ever would you think that “serious” readers wouldn’t be interested in that?

  • “I also think that this probably signals that a lower cost iPad is on the way.”

    I agreed with every word of this article up to that point. Not saying that I know (Apple is pretty inscrutable), but I think that Apple believes that the iPad as currently priced is already pretty good bargain.

    We’ll know a lot more when the iPad 3 goes on sale. If the iPad 2 is discontinued, that will signal that Apple has no interest in, and no fear of, low cost tablet alternatives.

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