Friday, 20 January 2012 08:26

Apple unveils iBooks 2, textbook creation software, and iTunes U app

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Apple's education announcement featured a new version of the iBooks app to handle the company's new electronic textbook format, along with free software for creating those interactive textbooks.

As rumoured, Apple has released a program designed to allow educators to create their own electronic textbooks for use on the iPad. The free iBooks Author software is available now from the Mac App Store.

iBooks Author

But iBooks Author isn't just for textbooks. The software comes with a collection of templates (and you can expect the emergence of a cottage industry to meet the inevitable demand for additional templates for those who lack the design skills to create their own templates) said to be suitable for "textbooks, cookbooks, history books, picture books, and more."

In addition to static content such as text, tables or pictures, iBooks Author's multi-touch capability allow the incorporation of interactive content such as photo galleries, 3D objects and Keynote presentations. And if you've already written the text, iBooks Author can import Pages or Word files.

Finished books can only be sold through Apple's iBookstore, but as with the App Store there is the option of offering free downloads. Books can also be exported to iTunes U (see below) or as PDF files.

Apple officials said major educational publishers including Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill and Pearson were backing iBooks textbooks, and most of their titles would be priced at $US14.99 or less.

Page 2: iBooks 2, iTunes U app.

 


iBooks textbooks work with the newly-released iBooks 2 app for the iPad. (The app also runs on other iOS devices, but iBooks textbooks are designed for the larger iPad format). "With its fast, fluid navigation, easy highlighting and note-taking, searching and definitions, plus lesson reviews and study cards, the new iBooks 2 app lets students study and learn in more efficient and effective ways than ever before," Apple officials claimed.

iTunes U

iBooks 2 is a free download from the App Store.

"Education is deep in Apple's DNA and iPad may be our most exciting education product yet. With 1.5 million iPads already in use in education institutions, including over 1000 one-to-one deployments, iPad is rapidly being adopted by schools across the US and around the world," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing. "Now with iBooks 2 for iPad, students have a more dynamic, engaging and truly interactive way to read and learn, using the device they already love."

iTunes U is probably the piece of the iTunes ecosystem that gets the least attention. It allows educational institutions to make course content - video, audio and page-based - available to a wider audience.

The new iTunes U app for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch allows teachers to create and manage such courses, while students can study the materials, including iBooks textbooks.

The app also handles quizzes, syllabuses and assignment lists, and supports push notifications to alert students to new or changed course information.

"The all-new iTunes U app enables students anywhere to tap into entire courses from the world's most prestigious universities," said Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of Internet software and services. "Never before have educators been able to offer their full courses in such an innovative way, allowing anyone who's interested in a particular topic to learn from anywhere in the world, not just the classroom."

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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