3 Reasons Apple's iPad Textbooks Will Rock the Classroom

Ipad textbooksTeachers love apples in the classroom; now, it's time to see how they will feel about Apple (AAPL) in the classroom.

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.
Ipad text books
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.

Why would publishers be so quick to discount their books? Well, keep in mind that they don't sell new books to every incoming class. Public schools retain books to use for next year's class. Private school students who purchase their books turn around and resell them to younger students in transactions that can't be monetized by the publishers.

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.

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A chalk board works just fine. No batteries required, and no environmental problems or increased greenhouse waste.

January 26 2012 at 12:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

iPads are fragile! Apple technology is rapidly changing...an ipad purchased 2 years ago will become obsolete this year. Replacement costs money. With limited budgets not many school systems can purchas hundreds of these devices. The multiple apps found on the ipad could pose BIG distractions for students. Soooo....... cost + rapid obsolesence + distraction = not such a great idea!!!

January 20 2012 at 2:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bjw367's comment

LOL I heard the same nonsense years ago. We can't put computers in the classroom! All the expense and the kids will just play games. First of all, pad prices will continue to deecline, especially for education. If you can read a book on a $200 kindle apple will react with a low cost tablet for education. If it is a school issued ipad it will be controlled by the school and locked out of 'apps' play. And this really makes sense for HS and college as wi-fi will greatly enhance updating texts and providing links to other resources, 2 things heavy moldy text books can't do. Schools will replace hundreds of dollars of text books with a $200 tablet soon.

January 20 2012 at 4:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Andrew K. Milton

Actually, it's not the dog ate my iPad. It's "my internet was down," or "I couldn't find it on your web site," or "my computer wouldn't open it."

I'd be perfectly happy to have iPad books in my room. But I don't want everything to be whiz-bang about opening videos, or a bunch of other malarkey. Reading sometimes should involve just and only that...reading.

January 19 2012 at 10:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Spencer Tracy

A $500 iPad for education, right. I take it this is for only a $pecial part of the population.

The kool-aid drinkers are ready to jump on this bandwagon. The revolution is coming or the marketing campaign to convince us of is?

Education is in serious trouble in America, an iPad in the classroom will generate revenue for Apple but not address or fix any of these issues. If you're already privileged, you don't need a damn iPad for class to boot.

January 19 2012 at 8:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My sisters highschool started this trend this year...so far so good. great choice.

January 19 2012 at 7:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"The Bus ran over my IPad"

You didn't note that the price is per student per year.
Most states have a 6-8 year adoption cycle so a Physical book is used for 6 students.
At a cost of $70 that's about $12 per student per year.

The Review/Adoption process requires that tny change be submitted for approval, There goes the immediate update.

The price of the Ipad has to be added to the cost per student also. At the current rate of technology change and with the rough use by students they probably won't last over 2-3 years
Last but not least, not many people steal textbooks, but an IPad?

January 19 2012 at 5:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply