Apple is slated to announce the fruits of its labor on improving the use of technology in education at its special media event on Thursday, January 19. While speculation has so far centered on digital textbooks, sources close to the matter have confirmed to Ars that Apple will announce tools to help create interactive e-books—the “GarageBand for e-books,” so to speak—and expand its current platform to distribute them to iPhone and iPad users.
There’s not much to go on beyond the few lines above, but I believe it. Apple is currently making number of tools like the one mentioned above. Pages, for example, is Word app that also makes Epub. Final Cut Pro edits movies. And of course Garage Band creates music.
Update: According to Forbes, Ars went off on a tangent with their interpretation. This tool won’t be designed to do an end-run around publishing. It will just be a good way to make digital textbooks. I had ignored that part because it didn’t really make much sense for (and this is from the biography) Pearson to be involved in an end-run around itself.
Since we can pretty much assume that this rumor is true, let’s take a moment and think about how Apple’s soon to be competitors are going to feel. First, Coursesmart and Vitalsource are the 2 big names in this niche, and I expect them to soldier on.
But then there are the iPad specific developers. Inkling was launched last year with the goal of making an enhanced digital textbook platform. They even drew investment from Pearson. There’s also Kno, who has pinned their hopes on their textbook app ever since their dual screen tablet crashed and burned last spring. And don’t forget Vook. While this enhanced ebook maker focuses less on textbooks than on fiction, they’re still in this market.
I would expect Kno to do the best. They’re not selling enhanced textbooks so much as they are selling textbooks via very capable app. Many of their features are found in the app, not the books, and that could make all the difference. And Vook is available on several other platforms, so they have other markets to fall back on should Apple crowd them out of the iPad.
Inkling, on the other hand, is the interesting story. Considering how much they have in capital investment, they’ve never released all that many textbooks. And the ones they have released are both enhanced and interactive. This puts them in direct competition with Apple’s new platform, which could spell their doom. But I don’t see them going away so much as being swallowed up by Pearson, who is one of the investors. I personally think that Person has been planning all along to buy up Inkling, and this week’s news might move their time table forward.
BTW, I also briefly considered the possibility that Inkling would be involved with Thursday’s news. Nah. The CEO is quoted by Ars, so he’s clearly not under an NDA.
In any case, let’s see what happens Thursday.