A GarageBand app for creating textbooks. That's the latest speculation about what Apple plans to announce at a big education-related media event scheduled for Thursday.
So far, Apple has given no word about what will be announced at the event, which will be held at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, aside from the connection to education. Reports on the Web are now indicating that, according to unnamed sources, the company intends to release new tools for the creation of textbooks and other e-publications.
Support of ePub 3?
Some reports have previously indicated Apple could announce support for the ePub 3 e-book publishing format, which allows a wider range of interactive multimedia. The company currently supports the ePub 2 standard for its iBooks, with HTML 5 extensions for some kinds of multimedia. In addition to being limited, the extensions can create compatibility problems with other e-book platforms.
As Apple continues to dominate the tablet category that it virtually invented, there has been speculation for some time whether the company would help to reinvent textbook publishing, since textbooks are heavy, hard to keep updated, and pricey. The iPad is selling well in educational institutions, and is being used for training in businesses.
GarageBand is cited as a model for what some observers are expecting on Thursday, because it is a widely available Mac tool that makes music creation readily accessible to a wide range of users.
Of course, Apple has a long track record of transforming existing content spaces or creating new ones by providing tools and a platform, such as in desktop publishing, music listening and creation, film editing, and smartphone apps.
In addition to e-textbook development and distribution, new tools could also take advantage of the revolution in social networking, creating virtual dorm room study sessions from groups of remote users.
'Ripe for Digital Destruction'
Feeding the anticipation of this announcement is the importance that digital textbooks held for Steve Jobs, the late CEO and co-founder, as described in Walter Isaacson's best-selling biography. Jobs told Isaacson that textbooks represented "an $8 billion a year industry ripe for digital destruction."
There have been reports that announcements in this area were originally scheduled to be released last October when the iPhone 4S was unveiled, but they were postponed.
Current Analysis' Avi Greengart, who will be attending Thursday's announcement, noted that the challenges with textbooks are "business model issues, more than technical issues." The economics are quite different, he said, from publishing a novel or a memoir, in that there is a robust market for used textbooks, and many colleges and some professors have financial ties to textbook sales.
"If Apple can solve these business issues," Greengart said, there are many advantages to having textbooks in e-book form. The good news for Apple, he noted, is that it has a long history of successes "in cutting through these sorts of business issues."