The tech giant revealed its new digital textbook initiative on Thursday, aligning itself with major publishers and a new platform to replace a stack of textbooks with a single iPad tablet.
There will obviously be resistance here. You'll always find technology worrywarts arguing against change. Be on the lookout for textbook buffs waxing nostalgic about the joys of turning dog-eared pages or scribbling in the margins.
Apple, though, is serious about this push, and it's already resonating in many grade schools. Let's go over the three reasons that Apple will succeed.
1. Paper Textbooks Are a Flawed Choice for Students
Apple began its presentation by pointing out the shortcomings of traditional books. Sure, the content on the pages may be solid, but how about the real problems with textbooks.
- Textbooks -- en masse -- aren't very portable. Have you seen how heavy the backpacks that some kids tote around these days are? One textbook is fine, but when a student has to lug several at the same time, it can get pretty cumbersome.
- Books aren't durable. This Apple claim may seem silly at first. Drop a book, and nothing happens. Drop an iPad and you may be out $500. However, a book actually wears fairly quickly and is easily ruined after the first kid marks it up.
- Conventional reference books aren't interactive. Apple demonstrated how thumbnail graphics can start videos, and how interactive chapter reviews and quizzes are superior by providing immediate feedback.
- Searching through a textbook isn't easy. Forget having to scroll back to an index at the end of a book or reaching for an encyclopedia. Highlight a word in one of Apple's new digital textbooks and it becomes a glossary.
- Textbooks aren't always current. Some subjects, including math and literature, may be timeless, but science, health, and even history textbooks are routinely updated. The revisions make the earlier paper editions obsolete. Digital textbooks can be updated immediately.
2. Paper Textbooks Are a Flawed Choice for Publishers
The big question leading up to Apple's presentation was whether publishers would be on board. They make a lot of money on their high-priced textbooks, and they've seen how Apple brought prices down for the music industry.
And Apple's serious about the value proposition here as well. High school textbooks are being made available for $14.99 or less apiece. How would publishers feel about that? Evidently, just fine: McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt -- three major textbook companies -- came out as Apple partners.
Fulfillment also isn't easy or cheap for publishers. It's not cheap to print books, stock them, and ship them. Apple will make all of that easier.
Sure, there may be a bit of peer pressure here. The moment that one publisher partnered with Apple, the others had no choice but to follow suit. No one wants to be left behind.
3. Apple Will Make the Process Easier and More Enjoyable
Apple began by pointing out that there are already 1.5 million iPads being deployed by education institutions. The company clearly wants to accelerate that pace. There was no meaty revelation on dramatic hardware discounts to make it feasible, but Apple is certainly making it easier on the software end.
Apple introduced iBooks Author, a free publishing tool that will allow publishers and authors to create detailed interactive books to sell through Apple's virtual bookstore.
The company is also beefing up iTunes U, the free college-course podcasts featuring content from a handful of universities. The free offerings will now be open for grade school content as well, and Apple is arming teachers with the tools to create shared courses.
The revolution is inevitable. It's coming. Teachers, get ready for the obvious excuse: "The dog ate my iPad."
Longtime Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple.