Just as GarageBand destroyed the music biz, now anyone who has trouble reading a textbook can write their own, WikiFiddler style...
A new app from Apple will emerge this week allowing users to create their own books - and steamroller the textbook industry - according to moles claiming to be close to the fruity tech titan. All we know for sure is that the iPhone maker will hold an e-book-related media event on Thursday - it may not sound like the hottest …
I'm just going to agree with everyone (so far) and say WHAT? We already have Wikipedia for fiddling with. Somewhat immutable E-Textbooks are already available on Kindle and others. Why would a school district get textbooks the students could fiddle with? Hard to teach without a common textbook.
Surely this has been misunderstood, like when everyone was hyped up when Apple was releasing the 4" iPhone5, and instead a little 4s came out?
But bear in mind that digital publishing is massively controlled and curtailed by publishing companies that are yet to move with the times (digital copies roughly the same price as the existing hardback) and is very hard to tap into as an unpublished author. If Apple can remove the barriers to entry for "regular" people to publish, mainly removing the cost, then you'll flood the market with crap, sure, but with a lot of diamonds that would never see the light of day.
It really could change the market, but yes it would shift the power to Apple. A bugger, but no real alternative yet for people to get into the market in the same way that some developers have now managed to make a living from the App Store.
Positive, but with a large caveat attached!
I don't recognise that picture of the eBook market at all. Yes, books from major publishers cost more or less the same as print versions (although generally the then extant version, so paperback rather than hardback if a paperback has been released). But major barriers to entry? Self publication is easy and pretty much free, with for example Amazon allowing self-publication with no up front costs, if I recall correctly. Amazon is full of quite obviously self-published books at all prices from free upwards. And yes, 95% of them are shite, but that's another discussion.
Could this be yet another case of Apple entering, and then claiming to have created, a market that actually already exists? Always assuming that this is what they are about to announce, of course.
Well I work in educational publishing and those commenters were right on the mark. What is crucial in education is not the format but the content. Creating "Garageband for ebooks" doesn't even address the hard problem of generating high-quality, pedagogically useful, relevant and appealing content for the classroom. At best, it will help teachers to distribute their own material in nicer format. Which may be valuable but is hardly 'disruptive' to the educational publishing business.
In other words, once again we (may!) have a tech company looking only at the technological portion of a problem and failing to grasp the larger picture.
School textbooks in the US are notoriously overpriced, lousy and often politicized. See Richard Feynman's essay on his time on a School Board reviewing science books. One lot of sample books tendered were just blank pages (in the expectation the reviewers wouldn't read them and just rubber-stamp the sale). It's one of many cosy corrupt enterprises being shafted by technology.
"School textbooks in the US are [...] often politicized."
teaching has always been politicized. Always. That predates the invention of books. "history is written by the victor", as they say. Someone's freedom fighter is always someone else's terrorist. etc...
If anything, allowing anyone to write textbooks will make it worst, because it removes the control that the publishing process brings. When publishing is dirt cheap, you get the textbook equivalent of Geocities: a soup of nonsense with extra bits of drivel. If a few good things manage to stay afloat, it's purely by chance.
Far from destroying whole industries, it sounds like it could be a minor but useful educational tool. Making it dead-easy for a whole class of students to turn in a short interactive "textbook" instead of a static paper could yield some interesting results and introduce variety. Not with any "world-changing" impact, but just as an extra tool in the box.
But even so, if it's going to get locked down in various ways like this (owned by Apple, available only on the iPhone and iPad, using a restrictive file format) then any sensible educator - also mindful of school budgets and student budgets - should say "no thanks, we'll do without it".
So that's billions upon billions of books that will be read solely by their author -and maybe close family- then. A bit like GarageBand gave birth to billions upon billions of songs no-one ever listened to.
This thing might make a small dent in the LaTeX market share; it will certainly be a successful photo album tool. I'm quite sure that textbook publishers are not shaking in their boots quite yet.
You do realize that textbook publishers are already offering their newer titles in electronic formats, right? The problem is that they want the same price as the print editions (an exception: McGraw Hill offered the book I assign for my classes for Kindle for $9.99). They've even been offering to cut-n-paste chapters together (and in some instance chapter sub-sections) for you for at least 6 years. Again, the problem is that it isn't cost effective, not that they don't offer it.
Not to mention that letting just anyone produce a "textbook" is asking for trouble. The offerings are crappy enough with the system now, where actual academics sell their souls to collaborate on creating the Dumb-and-Dumber Guide to Subject X. Having seen the complete crackpots that inhabit the self-publishing fever-swamp ("I'm an expert because I've read every Time-Life book on Subject X and forgot to take my medication again!"), I shudder at crowd-sourcing textbooks. Even with the "vetted" stuff, my kids manage to drop steaming turds into my Inbox every semester; now we're gonna get textbooks developed by every armchair fanboi?
"The problem is that they want the same price as the print editions"
Don't forget that manufacture and distribution account for <20% of the sale price of a textbook. When you take into account the fact that print books are VAT free and ebooks aren't (in most territories), the price differential is actually pretty small - unless you expect publishers to take less revenue from digital simply because it's digital rather than because it's cheaper to produce (which it isn't by very much).
This will be a great argument for kids who want an ipad. 'Look, dad, not only can I read textbooks on this purely educational device, I can even publish my own!'
Of course no textbook will ever be read on it. Who has time for that when there's angry birds to kill?
I have yet to see one kid with an idevice using it for other than gaming or working on social media stardom.
Once more, Apple will 'invent' something that has been done by everyone else, stick the letter i in front of it, charge three times what the others do, make sure that only Apple approved content can be used on it. Oh, and it will be a huge success and revolutionise whatever it is they are doing.
I spent 11 years working in Higher Ed publishing creating interactive content for internal and external LMS's in America and the UK.
This hypothetical tool sounds like a boon for textbook publishers, but I see the application for something like this as more applicable to the general market rather than Higher Ed textbooks and learning materials.
As other commenters have said, Pearson/McGraw/Wiley and a smattering of other publishers have a vise-like lock on the supply of content to Higher Ed. They're transitioning from providing books to atomising educational content and flowing that into proprietary platforms and then providing educational services around these platforms. There are so many layers of pedagogy, design, programming and quality control that I sincerely doubt individuals will be able to displace the textbook publishers anytime soon - any more than Jane Bloggs makes tailored and useful apps for her iPhone.
But I DO see how a tool that allows people to compose and publish to the iBookstore would radically disrupt traditional book publishers where the level of integration with 'interactive' elements is far less burdensome. What is a book publisher after all than an arbiter of taste and provider of services? At the moment, people DO write books, hire a freelance sub-editor to work the copy, get a freelance designer for the "cover" and page design, find a freelance marketer to write up a marketing plan and then launch the work to the world.
Or, better still, perhaps this is the spark to launch a thousand vibrant new micro-presses to bring carefully curated collections of new work to the world via the iBookstore?
"I spent 11 years working in Higher Ed publishing creating interactive content for internal and external LMS's in America and the UK" ... "vise-like lock" ...
"Vice" meant? Must be the effect of working in American "Higher Ed". No wonder I find American text books so awful.
Really, then tell me, how many ePub editors are there out there? How many? Now, of those, how many would you say are a delight to use? Uh-huh. They will probably release it for free, or charge a minimal fee, you know, like iWorks. Oh wait, what;s that, how much is MS Office? Wow, you're right, Apple does charge three times as much. And of course, Epub is, as we all know, an Apple standard, not to be used by anyone else, pretty much the same way Webkit is proprietary and cannot be used by anyone else.
You're right about one thing, it will be a success.
And to point out the obvious to everyone else: the publishing industry is at a standstill. Most of the comments of the people who claim to work in the industry can be boiled down to: "Oh no, change is gonna come, wicked, wicked, wicked change! Please don't hurt me".
It could be about creating a capability to produce electronic text books that work really well on iPads and Macs. This is about driving the products right into the heart of the education system. To get educated you will need an iSomething., because that is where all the text books live on proprietry slick formats.
It is a walled garden that is getting broader and more joined up.
Remeber get the hearts and minds early e.g. pre-school, high school, you get them for life.
I've read many textbooks that still hold a far greater breadth and provide a much deeper understanding than ANYthing on the web and have proven to be a great help in complex issues. If they were read, remixed and reuploaded they would retain those values but under another publisher's name.
While something like music can be an influence, where will the serperation come from, from people who write the textbooks that people will read, and then regurgitate back into an apple published textbook. Amazon already face the curse/blessing of people uploading direct copies of books under a new cover, and taking some of the cash from each sale.
If I read and understand an A-level physical therapy texbook, then write my own hours later, how much will be mine and how much the original author's.
...how long before this hits them?
I guess it depends on whether people can sell their self-created textbooks for money. If not, maybe their competition isn't Amazon, but Khan Academy and (as noted above) Wikipedia.
However, the antiphon-bois are twitching-ready! As ever.
If the expected thrust into the education/textbook sphere pans out on Thursday (and after), then the details will be what's worth throwing sparks and spewing and spouting over. Wait. I'm half expecting Apple to unleash some earth-shaking, jaw-dropping, ass-kicking, market-owning innovation(s). Though I could be wrong.
I mean, it's not as if they had any tools to write them before now, such as applications for "processing" of words, or personal "publishing" tools that could be run on a "desktop" computer.
What's that you say?
So what's all the bloody fuss about then?
Forget the side issue of masses of questionable quality home brew textbooks that won't ever show on the marketplace radar anyway.
The publishers of textbooks should be relishing this (except for potentially losing control of the means of distribution). Can you ever see anyone allowing any sort of second hand textbook market in this scenario? Bypasss the doctrine of first sale in one easy step, go straight to "Go" and collect $200 (for each copy, preferably via an annual licensing charge).
The article suggests that Apple are going to enable anyone to start published text books for the education market. I don't think that's been stated anywhere. It's pure speculation.
From what I've read, Apple are going to release the tools which will enable those currently writing education books, to produce media and interactive rich textbooks that can be read in iBooks (I guess). I don't think this is for the general public.
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