Apple’s iBooks 2 to help end the days of the ‘big backpack’

The Right Click

The backpacks of students everywhere may have gotten a little lighter today with the announcement of Apple's new textbook software, iBooks 2, aimed directly at the education market.

As expected at the January 19 announcement, Apple unveiled its latest contributions to the world of education, including a new way students can download and use textbooks. iBooks 2, which is available as a free download today in the App Store for the iPad, brings full textbooks to the portable device with a few improvements.

"With the iPad, we're making textbooks so much more engaging," Phil Schiller, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at Apple said, according to CNET's liveblog.

Instead of a static experience that current hardcover textbooks offer students, these e-textbooks can have interactive pictures (Schiller demonstrated using an image of DNA that could be manipulated during the live event), image galleries, videos and Keynote presentations all embedded directly into the pages.

The textbooks can be navigated using a table of contents or by jumping to specific page numbers, much like with any ebook available on the market today. Students can also access a glossary of terms by clicking on any word in the text unfamiliar to them. Textbooks are also searchable.

Arguably the most exciting feature of these e-textbooks is the ability to create study cards. The reader can highlight text on the page with their finger or make notes on a page with a notepad available in the app, and iBooks 2 automatically turns those notes into study cards for the students to reference later.

The textbooks, which are priced at $14.99 or less for high school textbooks, belong to the student forever and can be downloaded again at any time.

Apple has already received extensive support in terms of content, partnering with textbook giants like Pearson, McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin and Harcourt. Both Pearson and McGraw-Hill have already released textbooks for download in the iBookstore for the U.S. curriculum covering subjects like Algebra 1, Biology and Geometry.

Canadians shouldn't feel entirely left out of the equation, though, as the potential for the provincial education systems to create textbooks tailored to individual curriculums is there.

Apple also announced iBook Author, available for free today in the app store, which allows users to create their own textbooks using simple drag-and-drop tools. Ready-made templates for topics like math and science also streamline the process, making it possible for schools and school boards to customize content to fit their individual needs. Books can also include custom-made interactive widgets, created using either javascript or HTML, but code knowledge isn't necessary to create one an e-textbook in iBooks Author.

Textbooks are now available in the iBookstore under the new Textbooks section.

(Screengrab Apple)