Thursday, January 19, 2012

Apple Announces Textbook Revolution

This morning Apple held a press event to announce their entry into the world of textbooks.  Everyone knew this was coming.  It's just been a matter of when and what will it look like.  And basically, what it looks like is a complete game changer.  Not just because the iBook Store will now sell you interactive textbooks via your iTunes account, but because they also announced a new authoring tool...and it's FREE!

I think digital books with integrated media were an inevitability.  After all they've sort of already existed in other forms such as websites, and apps, and pdf files, etc.  So, the big story is really about how this effects the billion(s) dollar industry of textbook publishing.  Apples iBooks will sell for no more than $14.99.  So, if the publishers are looking to keep their profits at current levels that most likely means someone is going to get cut out of the deal.  It's obvious that someone is the author.  But the good news is that with a free authoring tool and the iTunes/iBook marketplace, I think the authors may end up getting the better end of this deal.

I've been it for several years now but I'll say it again, "Teachers will be the next millionaires".  With today's technologies, and the new technologies just around the corner, there is no reason why a great teacher couldn't produce content for sale, and mentor students for a fee, and make a very good living.

I've only taken about 20mins to review iBooks Author (direct download link iBooks Author).  But the exciting thing is that if you are familiar with Apple apps then it won't take much more than that for you to start writing a fully interactive textbook of your own.

The starting templates are beautiful...very similar to templates in Pages with clean elegant designs.  I started with the Contemporary template and just started clicking around.  It's so easy to get started that really wish I has some sort of textbook project to be working on.

It's easy to incorporate videos, images, and other media by simply dragging and dropping.  But like I said, this is an Apple app and that's just how you do it. No fuss.  You can also add shapes, tables, and charts which is also similar to Pages, Numbers, and Keynote.

The new features are in the form of widgets:  Gallery, Interactive Image, Keynote, 3D, HTML, and Review.  You'll be happy (or not) to know that the Review widget is simply a multiple choice quizzing tool. From the Apple web site...
"Let readers test their knowledge using a variety of question types: multiple choice, choose the correct image, label the image, or a mix of all three. Authors can include six possible answers to each question."
 The accepted 3D format is COLLADA or .dae.  It's been a while since I've worked in 3D and so this format is new to me.  But according to wikipedia it looks like all the major 3D creation apps support the standard.

I'll let you go off and explore the Apple site and other places to get more details.  For the sake of this blog I want to know if you think this is revolutionary, or a game changer, for the work that you do?  Would you consider iBooks to be eLearning? Are you concerned about SCORM compliance?  Or how about LMS connectivity?  Many of you work in Windows only environments so does this make you think a little harder about buying a Mac?

mLearnCon is only about 5 months away.  If you are planning on creating iBooks between now and then let me know and we can figure out a way to showcase your work.  This is big news for Mobile Learning so we will most definitely be talking about it at mLearnCon.  mLearning is only just beginning!


Bill said...

Since you ask, I'm very concerned about SCORM compliance. Apple has pretty much killed flash.... good for them .... but as a e-learning content provider I need to produce material that will interact with my customers LMS. HTML5 is an immature spec and tool availabity is poor / primative.

OK, so ibooks author is free... great... cutting the legs out from underneath multimedia tool providers .... but without providing their existing customer base with a viable replcement.

Thanks Apple, my customers and I salute you for killing our tools without giving us a replacement. I've got people doing safety critical jobs with hundreds of lives on the line and over the last few months we've seen the ability to continue to support their training evaporate.

Matt said...

Bill, the iBooks workflow bypasses the LMS, creating a direct link from author to student (via the iPad and iTunes U if you're selling the book). But departments will have to make a wholesale conversion to the Apple-iBooks eco system before they drop their LMS, and I don't see that happening in too many cases -at least not yet- since LMSs offer so much more, and iPads-for-all is a costly investment.

Whether or not there is widespread adoption of iAuthoring, especially in higher ed and training, remains to be seen. What you can do in iBooks Author is relatively limited compared to Captivate, for example, or an HTML5 web app. So unless you're just created online textbooks for your LMS, I don't see much to worry about. Yet.

bschlenker said...

Hi Bill! I'm not sure I'd go that far. I can see what you mean, but I don't think anyone is going to STOP using Captivate, or Articulate, or others just because of iBook Author. For what it's worth I do believe there are still some training courses being delivered using the Shockwave plugin...and that died years ago.
I'm with Matt on this one. Its a nice first start but I don't see much to worry about either...for quite some time.

John said...

For me, I can see this used in a corporate setting as "homework"...readings, demo videos, assessments. However, in an organization that needs to track success and completion, there will still be the need for an LMS to contain those contents and results for the foreseeable future.

Bartłomiej Polakowski said...

In my opinion it won't revolutionize the learning world.
As you said the max book price will be under 15$. If we take a look at amazon for valuable publication they are much more expensive. They can probably be cheeper when an author become a book editor and publisher but what you haven't written is that all content created with this free application automatically becomes iTunes exclusive.
You can also publish the book to pdf but without interactions and movies (why?)
What's more. Thera are no social options. You can't even see comments of others readers what is posible with Kindle.
And we have to underline that is for iUsers only that are not majority on learning market. I think revolution requires more openness and Apple unfortunatelly closes it's great ideas for selected group of people.

Anonymous said...

I don't see why ibooks cannot be extended by developers including a scorm wrapper in the mix (for tracking) and/or web-hosted content that ties into an lms. It doesn't necessarily have to be an either/or situation.

John said...

That's a great thought. My initial reaction is that this still keeps the learner tethered to the LMS, but is that feasible for a learner utilizing mobile solutions? As someone who isn't a developer, I can come up with applications but I don't necessarily know what's feasible and what's not. Is it possible for the results of something done in a digital textbook could be held and then uploaded when the learner is connected to an Internet connection.

bschlenker said...

Hi John! Thanks for your comments. I think it is possible for the device to hold the data in some sort of offline mode and then upload when connected. If not natively then certainly a widget could be created to do this.
I'm not sure a wrapper would be the correct metaphor for the iBooks connecting to an LMS, or being defined as SCORM compliant. However, I'm still researching this.
I think the gold in their solution lies within the widgets. Widgets give us the ability to extend the platform. I'm excited to see what developers start doing with it. I mean seriously, if you can have a widget stream a live webcam feed within an iBook...that's pretty interesting from a dynamic content perspective. I don't see why then you couldn't insert a widget that connected your twitter stream or a facebook conversation about the content. I think the possibilities are wide open.