Apple Announces iBooks 2, iBooks Author And iTunes U App

In what could be described as an extremely fitting venue for an education announcement, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, Apple announced today a range of tools designed to help people in education with their studies, namely an updated version of iBooks, iBooks 2, which is designed to integrate more closely with textbooks, iBooks Author, allowing users to create their own textbooks for the iPad and a new iTunes U app for the iPhone and iPad, allowing professors to communicate more easily with their students in the classroom.


One of the products announced was iBooks 2, allowing greater possibilities with textbook reading on the iPad

With over 1.5 million iPads in use at institutions worldwide, according to Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing (try squeezing that on your business card in one line), it seemed like up till now Apple hadn’t really delved into the possibilities open to elementary, high school and university students around the world. There is, of course, the educational discount that Apple offers to most students (currently around 15% but it only applies to Mac computers, not iPads, iPhones and other Apple devices) but Apple hadn’t really focused on those students and how they can use their devices to enhance their learning experience – up till now anyway. Let’s have a look at each one of Apple’s new educational products in turn.

iBooks 2

We’ve had iBooks around on our iOS devices for about a year and a half now (it came with the iOS 4 upgrade back in April 2010) but now, iBooks 2 gives you a brand new textbook experience. The newly designed books make use of the iPad’s bigger screen, and makes use of features such as 3D imaging, embedded video straight in the textbook and multitouch gestures.


A first look at iBooks 2 on the iPad (image courtesy of The Verge)

The first textbooks (which have been released today along with the launch) are priced at around $15 in the iBookstore and Apple has announced a line of publishing partners, including McGraw-Hill and Pearson. Of course, we can expect far more to come along soon.

iBooks Author

Apple has also given OS X Lion users the freedom to create their own textbooks for the iPad via a new app, iBooks Author, which is available for download from the App Store now (and yes, it’s free as well). The app, which bears an uncanny resemblance to Pages, allows users to choose from several professionally-designed Apple templates and add text, images, movies, 3D objects and a whole lot more.

iBooks Author

iBooks Author for Mac, showing a textbook in creation

What’s more is that if your iPad is connected to your computer, you can open up your newly-created textbook and view it directly through iBooks 2 and when you’ve finished with your creation, you can upload it straight to the iBookstore for instant publishing.

iTunes U App

Apple also released an iTunes U app for iPad and iPhone, allowing users to download lectures, course material, presentations and related content from top universities. Ever since iTunes U has been around, over 700 million items have already been downloaded from it and as a special promotion due to today’s event, Apple is offering over half a million items free of charge.


The new iTunes U app for iPhone and iPad

iTunes U synchronises with iCloud, meaning that all your downloaded material is shared among all your iOS devices and the web-based course manager tool means that you can easily gather all the materials required for a certain course no matter what format they are, whether they’d be presentations, documents, PDFs or the new iBooks textbooks.

You can grab iTunes U from the App Store by clicking here and downloading it to your iOS device.

What Do You Think?

So now it’s over to you readers: what do you think of Apple’s new educational products? Do you think that they will genuinely help students in their high school and university pursuits or do you think its just another distraction for the classroom? Share your thoughts, comments (and complaints, where necessary) in the comments section below!


Add Yours
  • As a graphic designer, I’m going to see if I can use iBooks Author to create a portfolio which I can present on the iPad. I’m not very familiar with Pages, preferring InDesign, but I’ll see what I can do. (and of course, portfolios are usually just big images with a little bit of text.)

  • I wonder if you could use the new iBooks Author to create regular eBooks or is it limited to textbooks only? I guess it’s time to finally break down and talk my wife in to buying that iMac so I can play with publishing.

    • From what I heard in the Keynote you can use it to make any kind of eBook, with the obvious limitation being that you’re stuck within the iBooks ecosystem. If you plan on doing anything else than a Textbook, you’ll need to create a separate, iBooks independent version.

      • In other words, no, it won’t create any other form of ebook… it’s Apple proprietary. And its export PDF has no DRM capability that I can see, so it’s worthless for selling etexts to anyone but apple users. Hmmm… sounds just like Apple, through and through.

  • I am wondering if textbooks created with iBooks Author can be sold outside of itunes so i have a better control of the pricing of the textbooks I create.
    Any information about that?

    • Not quite. iBooks Author allows you to export your works as a PDF, but you obviously don’t get all that multimedia goodness. Apple’s got you locked in to iBooks on this one.

      • As stated above, I see no way to DRM the PDF output (but maybe I missed something or that’s only possible through Adobe vending). Selling it won’t do you much good unless you can protect it, so even PDF output doesn’t help you outside of selling through Apple/iTunes. Unless…

        Maybe someone knows of a PDF to ebook converted that’s run on OSX.

  • Until the price of books on iBooks is more in line with Kindle, it will always be redundant to me.

  • Looks great for authors, but from what I can tell, even non US residents need to have a US IRS number in order to sell books through iTunes. But in order to obtain that, it looks like you need a social security number. So I’m not sure how useful it will be to non US authors, unless they want to start paying tax in the states.