iEducation too expensive

On Thursday, Apple Inc. announced a plan to publish textbooks on iPads. With partners Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill Cos. and Pearson, the deal covers the production of about 90 per cent of U.S. textbooks.

Digital textbooks have the potential to revolutionize the textbook industry, but Apple’s initiative also raises serious questions of accessibility.

Students will be able to purchase digital textbooks for around $15 each, with access to the latest editions. But these perks only come after students make an initial investment of $519 — the retail cost of a no-frills iPad.

It’s a one-time payment that’s too high for many students, even though the savings accrued by purchasing digital textbooks could make it worthwhile over time.

Apple has also released an application for creating digital textbooks, but it’s only available on the Apple operating system. The closed nature of Apple’s programs makes them inaccessible.

To make iPad textbooks more accessible for students and to expand their market share, Apple needs to market a simplified tablet.

A stripped-down iPad specially geared towards textbook functions would serve to make the product more affordable.

Tablets have immense potential to improve textbook learning. Integrating sound, video and animation into a lesson could serve to illustrate points in a creative way, appealing to a wide range of learning styles.

Teaching students about the process of mitosis, for example, would be more effective with an annotated video that shows each distinct step. Textbooks have great content, but are hindered by a simplistic method of delivery.

With information trending towards digitization, textbooks should follow suit. Apple is initiating this new genre of textbook, but the digital textbook world will eventually belong to the company with the best product at the lowest cost.

As it stands, the monopoly held by the three largest textbook companies has shifted slightly into Apple’s hands. If a competitor can create a less expensive tablet with textbooks of a comparable quality, then the market will begin to shift again.

With greater competition in the textbook market, students stand to benefit from superior products at a lower price.

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