Apple rewrites the history books

To be precise, Apple has not quite rewritten the history books. They have reformatted them. Taken the flat, lifeless pages of text and transformed them into flat, video-linked pages of text. At least until the iPad 3D hits. (What? You haven’t heard about the iPad 3D? My Chinese contacts made it very clear that the next iPad would be 3D. Of course, buying eyewear from China may not have been the best idea. Especially since I haven’t worn contacts for 10 years thanks to lasers. Comedy!) Anyway, Apple unveiled its new iBooks 2 and iBooks Author program last Thursday at an event so special it was actually held at 9 a.m. CST instead of the usual noon. For once, I didn’t have to keep Frito dust from contaminating my Moshi keyboard.

Truth be told, for a change, I had planned on ignoring this particular Apple event. While I’m all for educating the young masses about isotopes, Waterloo, and igneous rocks, I am no longer a member of said masses. I graduated college 18 years ago and have been hustling punks off my lawn ever since. (And if you’ve noticed that I make some punk-and-lawn joke in nearly every MacHole, it’s because I’m crotchety in a way even Blue Star Ointment can’t soothe.) So the prospect of listening to someone who’s not Steve Jobs talk about iAbacus or some such for an hour didn’t really appeal to me.

Then I saw a tweet from Engadget with a link to their live event blog. Hmmm, mess with income taxes or watch text periodically scroll down my screen that has nothing to do with Hoth? The choice was clear: Check out the third day of the latest woot-off and then hit up Engadget. I was about ten minutes late to the party when I finally decided against the Leak Frog and finally peeked in on what the Apple folks were up to. Fortunately, reading about a live event doesn’t take nearly as much time as actually sitting through it. It’s a bit like how I watch NASCAR races—record them on TiVo and watch at triple speed until an interesting pass, wreck or fistfight happens. Sadly, Phil Schiller and Scott Forstall rarely get down with the Marquess of Queensberry type of action. Although they could just be obeying the first two rules of Fight Club.

Regardless, what Phil and the gang were discussing was actually quite intriguing. Apple had signed on the four biggest publishers of high school and college textbooks to release their titles as interactive iBooks. Now, algebra would come to life just like that digital version of Grover’s “Monster at the End of this Book” I had downloaded over Christmas. Only in this case, the monster would be six more years of higher-level math courses culminating in the calculus of multiple variables probably not taught by Mr. Hooper. Because he died in 1982.

Having textbooks on an iPad is kind of a no-brainer. Except for the massive amount of effort it took to seal the deals with publishers and convert all of their titles. And add video and more interactive pictures. And clickable text. That sort of thing. And the pundits who write reviews of these things within minutes of their announcement (suck-ups) have already discussed the major impact on education this shift will probably bring—lower costs, more engagement, fewer redwoods harvested for Intro to Evil Human Consumption 101, and so on. And while that is all well and good, I also like to ponder the smaller shifts this move may engender. For example, now when a bully knocks some frosh’s books from his hands, said bully will be responsible for replacing an expensive electronic device. Now, only the rich can bully. I’m sure someone will occupy the in-school-suspension room over this. Now, college students can’t chalk up that $800 credit card charge to an OTB site to books. Although they might be able to hide the Beatles Anthology on their iTunes accounts, assuming their parents aren’t hip to the tech like me.

It will also be even easier to slack off while studying. Instead of having to set aside the 80-pound copy of “Janson’s History of Art” on it’s Doric column-style podium (sold separately) and then grabbing their iPads to LOL and OMG, students can just flip between the iBooks 2 app and Instafacesquarequora. Maybe a jailbreak app will even let users view a textbook on one side of the iPad 3’s Retina display and some backyard wrestling YouTube videos on the other. Dare to dream, people. Dare to dream. On a sadder note, students will no longer get the joy of perusing a used textbook and discovering the doodles of Calvin or Hobbes or Locke, assorted fraternity rallying cries, and dozens of assorted phalluses. I’m sensing another app opportunity.

Apple didn’t just leave textbook authors dangling in the wind when it comes to content creation. They also released the free iBooks Author program so you, yes you, Professor Roy F. Fox, Ph. D. of the University of Missouri, can create your very own whiz-bang iBook textbook, assuming you already have a stash of multimedia files handy or don’t mind yanking things off of Google image and video search. Cool. And not just for people like my uncle. I can make a book for my kids. Or a more interactive version of my ad portfolio. Or a really sweet interactive recreation of our future trek to Fantastic Caverns and the Precious Moments museum that will exploit the technology to its fullest and bring honor, glory and stalagmites to the memory of Steve Jobs.

Oh, and Apple also made some announcement about iTunes U upgrades or something, but I stopped reading the Engadget stream at that point. Had to see if there were any new Chuck Norris facts, dontchaknow.

Later,

Fox

Comments closed
    • TO11MTM
    • 8 years ago

    I’m Shocked I didn’t see this posted yet… (Unless I missed it.)
    [url<]http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html[/url<]

      • derFunkenstein
      • 8 years ago

      edit: sorry, wrong comment. didn’t meant o reply to you.

    • ltcommander.data
    • 8 years ago

    [url<]http://dimsumthinking.com/2012/01/21/a-writers-eula/[/url<] The most interesting commentary on the EULA is what author's think rather than tech commentators. If the above link is anything to go by, for author's, the EULA apparently isn't out of step with what they typically have in their contracts with publishers. Namely, publishers provide their own tools allowing you to fit into their design flow, which iBooks Author seems analogous with. In existing publishing contracts, all content you produce is essentially the publishers. If you don't want to finish the book, they can give all your work to date to some other author to finish. Even if you finish the book, they can choose not to publish it. You can't use publisher provided tools to produce work for other publishers or to self-publish. I'm sure big name authors like JK Rowling are able to negotiate better contracts, but Apple's EULA doesn't seem out of left field compared to many existing publishing contracts. iBooks Author is just one tool anyways. You can still sell ePubs produced using any tool you want on the iBookstore just as you always could so iBooks Author is in many ways a new "option" rather than a new "restriction". Some of the interactive features like embedded audio and video have been supported since iBooks 1.1.1 in 2010 without requiring the .ibooks format or iBooks Author. Personally, I think part of the fuss on this issue has been that people have been looking for an easy-to-use tool to create ebooks, iBooks Author seems like a good one, and users of non-Apple ecosystems are annoyed that iBooks Author isn't available to them. While it would be nice for Apple to produce tools for everyone out of the goodness of their heart, there is no requirement for them to do so, and not doing so isn't evil. If say Android users need a good ebook creator you'd think Google would be responsive to their customers' needs. More pointedly, seeing there is a demand for cross-platform ebook development tools, I'd hope Adobe, being a content creation tool company, would be all over it. In the meantime, Apple's invested what is necessary to satisfy the needs of their customers.

    • ChronoReverse
    • 8 years ago

    I don’t understand why people think this will help people learn.

    While not everything is rote memorization, practice is still what makes perfect not animated textbooks.

    • burntham77
    • 8 years ago

    “Hmmm, mess with income taxes or watch text periodically scroll down my screen that has nothing to do with Hoth?”

    SWTOR reference?

    • Game_boy
    • 8 years ago

    “Calvin or Hobbes or Locke”

    Let’s face it, he wrote the blog because he couldn’t get over how clever that sounded.

    • atryus28
    • 8 years ago

    I’m a little concerned with any tech company trying to take over the education system via controlling the books in any plethora of ways. Also as nice as digitized books are, it makes it extremely easy to alter books and such and be pretty close to impossible (comparing it’s ease of hiding it vs finding it) to notice or challenge.

    There is still a place for physical books and documents. We all know as techies that the ability to manipulate the text of books (for whatever reason) will eventually make them less reliable.

    Can’t wait till someone hacks your school books with whatever it they decide. Or corporation X decides to alter history to the point you can no longer prove it didn’t happen that way.

    Granted I know that even written books can have these problems from time to time but it is much more difficult than when it is digital and it can happen with a click of a button now.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 8 years ago

    Anybody who thinks this is going to help appreciably reduce the cost of textbooks is a fool. The textbook racket (particularly WRT college textbooks) is a very lucrative business and there is plenty of motivation on the part of publishers to keep it that way. These won’t be resellable (and therefore the used textbook market will shrink accordingly) and as a result the overall cost to students will be higher in some sort of bewildering oxymoron of truth.

      • Game_boy
      • 8 years ago

      What’s in it for the universities/professors to keep requiring such expensive textbooks?

      And is it a US-specific problem? As far as I know this problem doesn’t exist in the UK, lecturers make their own complete course notes and print them out.

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 8 years ago

        The professors are the ones writing the books.

        • entropy13
        • 8 years ago

        LOL a US-specific problem? As the premier academic institution in the Philippines, my university actually does nothing to stop the photocopying of books. The university, whether the University library, the libraries of the respective colleges, or even the various departments themselves, just legally purchases (or gets donations) of a few copies of the book. Then it’s photocopying galore. lol

        There are certain cases however that books are sold, but they are heavily subsidized and definitely not sustainable. For example, the “must-have” book (Politics by Heywood) in our department is almost $100 when bought outside, but only less than $20 because of subsidies. But I doubt the subsidies would last, considering the university’s budget is consistently decreasing per year.

        • Game_boy
        • 8 years ago

        Don’t know why I was downvoted, I haven’t heard of textbook costs being a problem before now and I wanted to understand why it existed.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 8 years ago

          [url<]http://bit.ly/AF3iQD[/url<]

    • uksnapper
    • 8 years ago

    I much prefer vthe old fashioned Bio Occular Optical Knowledge device,of course some people just refer to them as book

      • kyboshed
      • 8 years ago

      I’ve heard the batteries last a lifetime.

        • entropy13
        • 8 years ago

        Shame about their lack of hydrophobic properties though. There are several books outside of our house right now being dried.

    • tanker27
    • 8 years ago

    [quote=”Jason Fox”<] (And if you’ve noticed that I make some punk-and-lawn joke in nearly every MacHole, it’s because I’m crotchety in a way even Blue Star Ointment can’t soothe.)[/quote<] I too am this way. My wife calls me curmudgeon. (which is my favorite word) but there is nothing wrong with it. 😛

    • dpaus
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]Apple... also released the free iBooks Author program so you... can create your very own whiz-bang iBook textbook[/quote<] And when you do, Apple owns it. That's precisely the kind of crap that I increasingly detest from technology and media companies, and makes me consider become a charter supporter of Anonymous. OK, of course Apple is going to introduce a proprietary format for this. But we all know this could just as easily be done with HTML; easily with 5, but even with 4 (and I say this as CEO of a company that produces media for consumption on mobile devices). And then, of course, the textbooks could be used on any device, not just iDevices. I can only pray that various forces - publishers, schoolboards, depts of education, parents, etc. - get together and force any digital content to be used in any school to be 100% platform-neutral.

      • kyboshed
      • 8 years ago

      No, Apple doesn’t own your ebook. You’re perfectly entitled create an ebook with the same content, using any other kind of software and sell it in any store you like. iBooks Author is a merely free tool for creating ebooks for the iBook store.

        • Byte Storm
        • 8 years ago

        B. Distribution of your Work. As a condition of this License and provided you are in compliance with its terms, your Work may be distributed as follows:
        (i) if your Work is provided for free (at no charge), you may distribute the Work by any available means;
        (ii) if your Work is provided for a fee (including as part of any subscription-based product or
        service), you may only distribute the Work through Apple and such distribution is subject to the following limitations and conditions: (a) you will be required to enter into a separate written agreement with Apple (or an Apple affiliate or subsidiary) before any commercial distribution of your Work may take place; and (b) Apple may determine for any reason and in its sole discretion not to select your Work for distribution.
        Apple will not be responsible for any costs, expenses, damages, losses (including
        without limitation lost business opportunities or lost profits) or other liabilities you mayincur as a result of your use of this Apple Software, including without limitation the fact that your Work may not be selected for distribution by Apple.

        Section 2: Yes they (mostly) do, if you charge for it.

        • dpaus
        • 8 years ago

        [quote<]You're perfectly entitled create an ebook with the same content, using any other kind of software and sell it in any store you like[/quote<] No, read the EULA carefully: any 'Work' you create can only be [i<]sold[/i<] through the iStore, and then only if Apple feels like offering it for sale. Even if you re-create the same content using other software, you cannot [i<]sell[/i<] it anywhere else, because it is the same 'Work' in the eyes of the law. You can only give it away (which you can also do with your iBook), you cannot [i<]sell[/i<] it. EDIT: I'm not the only one who doesn't like this: [url=http://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/apple-absolute-worst-thinks-owns-221600501.html<]Apple at its worst[/url<]

          • kyboshed
          • 8 years ago

          ‘The Work’ is the final product as produced by iBooks Author. Nowhere does the EULA say you can’t write the same content in another application and use that to publish to the store of your choice.

            • Firestarter
            • 8 years ago

            And what if your livelyhood depends on the definition of ‘the work’? I don’t know the legal definition of it, but I’d rather not find out in court defending my first book against a swarm of Apple lawyers.

            • Decelerate
            • 8 years ago

            If I’m correct, the “work” means the result of the content+container.

            Thus you can separate the content from the container and set in another container form and sell it. Legally.

            Or else we would have seen Barnes & Noble and every libraries set on fire at the end of the presentation.

            • dpaus
            • 8 years ago

            [quote<]you can separate the content from the container and set in another container form and sell it. Legally[/quote<] I don't think so; in giving up ownership of 'the Work' you are also surrendering your copyrights to it.

            • egon
            • 8 years ago

            IMHO it seems a bit ambiguous, but when looked at in the context of the program dialogs and help file, it becomes more clear the way Apple intended it to be interpreted is as suggested in the posts you were responding to:

            [url<]http://tidbits.com/article/12741[/url<] Whether it's enforceable, who knows - same can be said of such agreements in general. Can be important to take concerns seriously, though, especially at the developer/publisher end where the possibility of the issue being tested is greater.

            • Firestarter
            • 8 years ago

            Even if it’s not enforceable, if Apple thinks it is or wants it to be, you don’t want to be on the receiving end of a lawsuit. This kind of ambiguity makes the application instantly useless to any kind of professional writer, IMHO.

    • sweatshopking
    • 8 years ago

    I’m surprised you didn’t comment on the horrible new EULA. The whole thing bout apple owning everything ever, even if they don’t deserve it. This was the big announcement there, you should review that jason, my dear.

      • dpaus
      • 8 years ago

      I’m guessing he’ll do that right after you post your detailed criticism of Windows Phone.

        • sweatshopking
        • 8 years ago

        needs different volume controls for ringer and audio playback.
        Some bugs with podcasts and specific formats
        hardware requirements don’t specify a specific battery runtime, so some of the handsets don’t have great battery life.
        STILL no skype, and im+ sucks.
        turn by turn sucks
        issues with purchasing apps on the web, and having them autodownload to the phone. often need to click a link in an email in order to start downloading
        no way to play songs or artists using the voice recognition.

        That sums up the majority of my issues. I can’t think of any others right now. I still like it better than my iOS or android stuff.

          • Sahrin
          • 8 years ago

          DOMINATION

          • dpaus
          • 8 years ago

          Pwn’d!

          • derFunkenstein
          • 8 years ago

          well at least we’ve figured out your love for Win7 is totally irrational. Do you have a problem-free experience in ANY aspect of the device? About the only thing you’re not complaining about is call quality. Hopefully that’s not terrible too.

    • yogibbear
    • 8 years ago

    And I care because?

      • yogibbear
      • 8 years ago

      Give me a negative 1? Bahahahaah. Don’t respond because you KNOW I’m right. Everyone has been carrying around .pdf’s on their thumb drive and storing them in the cloud for YEARS and YEARS. Jeez half my text books in final year uni (which I finished 4 YEARS ago) came with free .pdf download codes from the publishers website and/or had a CD in the back of the book with it on it.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 8 years ago

        I only -1’d both of your posts after you replied to your own post complaining about being -1’d :p

        • MarioJP
        • 8 years ago

        Yeah, You’re correct I get all my materials in PDF format. The difference is Apple is going to “organize this” at their will and in return say “will give you the best education experience”. As far as textbooks goes it can’t be good for your back and I agree on the change of how students are being educated, but I hope more companies other than Apple steps in. The least thing I want is Apple controlling how you need an ipad, macbook,iphone to continue education.

          • indeego
          • 8 years ago

          Why would carrying extra weight on your back be bad for it?

          Signed,
          –Lifelong backpacker

      • Deanjo
      • 8 years ago

      Because now you don’t have to carry around all your Dr. Seuss books.

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