Domestic, Open Source Education, Publishers, Required, Technology - Written by on Wednesday, January 18, 2012 17:54 - 0 Comments

Tomorrow:’s Big Announcement and Four Important Questions


The Apple Invitation. Image: Apple

Apple says it is making a big education announcement tomorrow, and as usual, has everyone in the media industry in a frenzy. Most people speculate the Cupertino, Calif.-based company will enter the digital textbook space. The question is what Apple’s participation will look like.

We talked with Curtiss Barnes, Vice President for Corporate Development at Cengage Learning. They’re widely regarded as number two in the textbook publishing space. Barnes said they’re not worried about the announcement. In fact, they welcome Apple.

“We’re partnered with Apple, work directly today in iBook store. We have apps and ebook supplements and core titles,” said Barnes. “In our own development and through many ebook distribution channels, we’re focused on the iOS platform for design and development. But we’re ultimately device and OS agnostic.”

They’re making big investments in their new education platform dubbed MindTap, which we covered here. They’re seeing good traction in their initial pilots of roughly 1,400 students.

Barnes, who oversees acquisitions for the $2 billion company said, “There’s  a lot of money hitting the industry, we’re seeing a lot of frothiness. I haven’t seen at a level since 90s’ and 2000, feels a little more frenetic than it used to be.”

To help put the announcement tomorrow in context, e-literate writer Phil Hill, an educational strategist with Delta Initiative, a consulting company to higher ed, blogged four key questions to consider when the announcement is made:

  1.  Will Apple transform iTunesU to go beyond content distribution and expand the learning platform?
  2. Will the content consumption model be explicitly tied to the iPad?
  3. Regarding textbook content, will the model follow iTunes, iBooks, or Amazon’s Kindle Self-Publishing?
  4. Will iTunesU support OER content without artificial restrictions?

The excerpt from the Steve Jobs biography that seeded the digital textbook chatter:

In fact Jobs had his sights set on textbooks as the next business he wanted to transform. He believed it was an $8 billion a year industry ripe for digital destruction. He was also struck by the fact that many schools, for security reasons, don’t have lockers, so kids have to lug a heavy backpack around. ‘The iPad would solve that,’ he said. His idea was to hire great textbook writers to create digital versions, and make them a feature of the iPad. In addition, he held meetings with the major publishers, such as Pearson Education, about partnering with Apple. ‘The process by which states certify textbooks is corrupt,’ he said. ‘But if we can make the textbooks free, and they come with the iPad, then they don’t have to be certified. The crappy economy at the state level will last for a decade, and we can give them an opportunity to circumvent that whole process and save money.’


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