UPDATED 09:10 EST / JANUARY 20 2012

Industry Effects of iBooks 2: Tuition, Copyright Concerns and Android

Yesterday Apple launched the iBooks 2 app along with iBooks Author and iBooks Textbooks.  Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, believes that this revolutionizes owning and reading textbooks as these apps were built to address the concerns of high costs of textbooks, hauling those bulky books around and making reading as fun and interactive as possible.  It looks like Apple already thought of everything, right?

Not really.  The moment Apple launched iBooks 2, people who were for and against it were very vocal about the matter.  We’ve already heard Schiller talk so highly about iBooks 2 and the rest of the apps, but we also need to look at things from the perspective of a person who doesn’t have an iPad, from the legal p.o.v., and how this latest strategy impacts the greater mobile community.

Non-iPad Users

We all know that the iPad is quite expensive and not everyone can afford it.  So even if you want to try out the new Apple apps, you can’t, unless you own an iPad.  I came across this article addressed to the author’s university president asking him not to adapt iBooks 2 for their university.  Ryan Tyler, the author of “Mr. University President, please don’t adopt Apple’s iBooks 2 platform,” states that though e-textbooks may seem cheap, if you consider the fact that you need to buy an iPad first, then the e-textbooks aren’t the only costs you’ll have to consider.  As a regular student without wealthy parents to buy you stuff, it’s quite hard to find the money to buy an electronic device that you can do without.

The second issue Tyler discussed is the possibility that iPads would be given to students for free.  For free, really?  As if things come at no cost nowadays.  If students get the iPads for free then someone else pays for them.  For one, the student might be paying for the device without his knowledge through tuition fee increase or the university asking financial support from the community, or they’re using tax payers’ money.  So the device is not really free.  One way or another, the student will pay for the device.

Tyler has some valid points which needs to be addressed, but if you think about it, if you get the iPad for “free”, it’s just like you’re paying for it in installment mode, should it be tacked onto your tuition.  But Tyler isn’t against the digital publishing revolution–just Apple prices.   Tyler also suggests that Android devices should be used in schools, since there are a lot of cheap Android tablets.  I don’t really know if he’s a Fandroid, and it doesn’t really matter, but if Android tablets are used in schools and universities, wouldn’t there be any incompatibility issues?  It doesn’t necessarily follow that all Android tablets would be compatible with a certain app because every tablet has different specs.  So if Android tablets would be used in schools, this could become problematic not only for the students but for the school as well.

Then there’s the matter of copyright…

For textbooks to be published, they undergo a gruelling state certification process in which, a lot of cases, different versions of the same textbook are approved for use in schools in different states.  Which begs the question, will Apple allow all the versions of one textbook be sold in iBookstore?  Aside from that, with iBooks Author anyone can create a textbook, isn’t Apple concerned with the fact that books created with iBooks Authors could be violating copyright laws?  And would Apple be responsible in making sure that the content of books created with iBooks Author are based on facts not just something someone made up?  A few things for Apple and the publishing community to ponder.

Impacting the Android Community?

I don’t think that Apple’s latest launch will be too problematic for Android tablet makers, since it’s highly unlikely that physical books would be completely obliterated from the face of the earth.  There will always be professors to force their students to buy the latest hardbound copy of their book.  Aside from that, the Android community (I’m talking about app developers and OEM partners) is quite versatile.  In a matter of weeks or months, someone would come up with an Android version of the iBooks 2, and iBooks Author.  Just look at the Kindle Fire–users are quite satisfied with it because they have a lot of books and textbooks to choose from in Amazon’s bookstore, and the device itself is not that expensive.

And finally, no one could impose that only a certain device could be used in a company, school or any institution because that would come across as being anti-competitive, and I don’t think Apple would want an anti-competitive lawsuit slapped in their faces.

One last thing, if you’re curious as to what the effect of iBooks 2 to Windows is, the answer is unknown at the moment.  For years, Apple has been snubbing Windows because they’re competing in the PC sector.  Apple is not really open about their products, which exist primarily within their own ecosystem.  So if you’re thinking that iBooks Author would be available for Windows PC, then I just have to say you shouldn’t hold your breath.


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