Let me preface with this: I have no insider information about this. None. No connections with Apple (as if that would help…). No leaked material. Heck I haven’t even been keeping up with the rumor sites. This is what I hope it will be, which may be completely divorced from what it will be.
So. What I hope this is about is providing way for educators to publish their own textbooks. I assume ebooks, and further, I assume ePubs, given that Apple’s put a lot of work into that standard. And, the more I play with it as a standard and understand it’s limitations and strengths, the more I like it for what it is.
In some ways, this would be non-news. Pages already allows you to easily produce ePubs. Sure, it coughs a bit with large files, and sure, it’s an Apple only product, but still. It does a decent job. Actually, I’d pay for a simple app that only does ePubs and does it well. That’s 90% of my output these days, so something optimized for that would be pretty slick. (Know of one? Drop me a line…)
More likely, I think, is that the even is about allowing educators to collaborate on their electronic books and distribute them. A way of bypassing the entire publishing industry the way the iTunes store bypassed much of the music publishing industry. If Apple provides an elegant, easy, and low-cost forum for educators to store and share material and then gives educators a way to output what they’ve created directly as an ePub, well… That’d kill.
I don’t care if there’s a way to monetize it. I suspect there will be, because Apple is a company that needs to make money. I get that. I don’t know what I’d pay for that service as an individual, but I suspect my district would pay for access.
I’ll point out here that I’ve been a huge proponent of educators building their own textbooks. I helped make that happen at my school six years ago- long before ebooks were a reasonable reality for our students. We used (and still use) print on demand to have books that we’ve created printed in small numbers for us. Moving that to an ePub is just the next logical step- and since our student all have iPad’s now… well, it just makes sense. Imperfect, but what isn’t?