As you might expect Apple’s recent promise/threat to “reinvent the textbook” by releasing free software to make e-books for the iPad caused a bit of a stir. The reactions are decidedly mixed on college campuses as Jeffrey R. Young notes in this Wired Campus post from the Chronicle of Higher Education. On the plus side, professors will be able to create and update their own e-textbooks and provide them to their students for free. This is a level of customization that will have particular appeal to professors teaching specialized courses. Apple’s efforts also helps give much needed “mainstream attention to textbooks and the issue of e-textbooks.” And the software’s use is not restricted to the classroom. Alumni offices and other departments can now get in the business of creating e-books to promote themselves and provide information about their services. The downside is most vividly provided by Audrey Watters, on her Hack Education blog. She worries that the main beneficiaries will be Apple, the publishers who are partnering with them (Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Houghton-Mifflin) and students who can afford iPads. Evidently, she is not alone. Ms. Watters’ “passionate post drew cheers on Twitter from many professors.”
Regardless of your personal take on Apple’s entry into the e-textbook market, this post, along with the links that Mr. Young provides, will give you a clearer impression of how it is being received on college campuses.