Apple's education event was just the beginning

Almost immediately following Apple's education event, the internet was filled with claims that Apple's textbook plan will never work. Namely, that the current $500 entry price of an iPad is unreasonably expensive for schools or parents to afford.

No shit.

Apple is not stupid. The publishers are not stupid. Yesterday's announcement was just the beginning, just a gimpse of what we can expect to see in the future. Baby steps. Take the timing of the announcement, for example. January is midway through the normal school year and months before the anticipated iPad 3. It was laying the groundwork.

Selling textbooks for $15 a pop to schools and students who can afford a $500 iPad may not sound like a promising business model, but Apple knows how to make money and, if there's one thing we can all agree on, it's that publishers are greedy. $15 is less than $40-$70 for traditional books, but when it's $15 for each student, each year, it starts to add up, coming very close to a $50-$70 book shared by 5 students over 5 years.

Apple famously runs the iTunes music and App Stores just above cost. They make their money on hardware sales, but it takes great content to drive those hardware sales. Apple also has longstanding relationships in education and has offered education discounts to schools and students alike.

My guess is that in addition to the anticipated iPad 3, Apple will also introduce an affordable iPad specifically for education. Perhaps it will be an iPad 2 discounted the way previous generation iPhones have been discounted for a few years now. Or perhaps it will be a special model available only to educational institutions. Apple doesn't need to make their traditional margins off the sale of such a device; they'll make some money off textbook sales, and they'll get far more once future generations are hooked into the Apple ecosystem.

Either way, it seems more than a little short-sighted to attack Apple on pricing so early in the process. Apple computers once cost tens of thousands of dollars and now a new MacBook Air starts at $1000. The original iPhone cost hundreds of dollars, now the iPhone 3GS is free on contract. Prices come down. Technology becomes democratized. It's happened with Apple for years; it seems silly to think it won't happen this time as well.

Now excuse me, I need to go work on a textbook of my very own. Using iBooks Author. You know, the extremely accessible, really powerful new ebook creator Apple just released. For free.

Have something to say about this story? Share your comments below! Need help with something else? Submit your question!

Leanna Lofte

Former app and photography editor at iMore, Leanna has since moved on to other endeavors. Mother, wife, mathamagician, even though she no longer writes for iMore you can still follow her on Twitter @llofte.

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Apple's education event was just the beginning

71 Comments

Let's look at this another way...
Do you want to pay 200-700+ for textbooks per semester (Average maybe 750-1000 a year) or do you want to spend 500 one shot (maybe even to get it less with education discounts or have your college provide one) and then spend 100-150 a semester for books?
Done right - this is huge. HUGE. I used to work in a university bookstore and saw students easily pay 300 or more for books. That could've been maybe 100 with this model, and those savings can go towards an iPad.

Oh, no joke. In college, you can save money with buying $15 textbooks on a $500 iPad. But I'm talking strictly about K-12 where the schools are responsible for buying books.

It's definitely a win for college students, but the $500 iPad costing less than traditional books is not an airtight argument, IMHO. Remember, a $500 iPad only has 16gb. Most textbooks are between 1 and 2 GB. So, will students more realistically want the 32gb model, especially when they will still want other apps (whether games or productivity)? Just wanted to complete that thought. Really appreciate the article, overall. Thanks.

Even an $800 iPad with $15 textbooks is a win. You're looking at at least 4 years for a BA at no less than $200/semester in textbooks. That's $1600 in books.
But as I mentioned in another comment, I expect college textbooks to cost more than $15. Apple was very carefully to specifically say that high school texts will be $15.

better than buying textbooks brand new? yes, absolutely.
better than buying textbooks used off half or amazon? better than renting off chegg? that's the real debate.

Don't forget that it's an iPad after all .. more than what a book can be (a book, internet device, computer, entertainment and much more) .. so its an all in one kind of device ^_^

Perhaps Apple will allow a seperate ~10GB free iCloud size for students downloading textbooks (textbooks in the cloud would be a good way to conserve space seeing as most schools have wifi now)

"Most textbooks are between 1 and 2 GB"?????
That seems a bit excessive. I went looking on the net and found a college level precalculus book in PDF form. It was 48MB in size.
The books through iTunes U are 1-2GB in size?

PDF vs 'full multi-media learning experience'
These books are way more than just the words on the page.

I totally agree. They know what they are doing. Anyone would be stupid to think Apple hasn't thought this all out 1, 5 or 10 years down the line. Thats how they function.

It's the same tired old stuff. Apple releases new stuff. People complain of the features they didn't get. Analysts / bloggers go on about how it's risky for Apple and how they might not succeed. Apple sells a boatload of said product, makes a shitload of money over a period of time. Repeat. This has been going on since the debut of the iPod.
No one's learned their lesson.

First this article reads like a 12 year old wrote it. Second this is for pk-12 so colleges mean nothing in this discussion. Thirdly 14.99 is just one price an author can decide to sell for 100 if they wanted. Then theres the real question of well what if i dont want an ipad? Making it closed to apple products is just dumb...now mix that with books that last longer and essentially have resell value....i work in a city school district and i would not trust one kid with a 500 dollar ipad or a 250 ipad....i asked a lot of teachers about this announcement and they were less then thrilled and also its just easier and better to have a physical book.....its a good idea just not the right one....on a related note the dauhter of one of the teaxhers have an ipad for school and hates it because of the fact notes are harder to do, reading is not the best either she stated.....this is a far cry from what we need especially since school districts are already poor andthey are not going to want to invest in something this expensive....devices,software, training alone for one sfhool would exceed over a million dollars that is a school of 500

I agree that the argument could have been made in a more appropriate fashion starting with the elimination of the entire two-word second paragraph.

Textbooks SUCK, dude. I fail to see how it's better to have a physical textbook that weighs your bag down, then multiply that by three or four or five or six or seven depending on how many classes the kid is taking... You can't mark in the book, you can't freaking FOLD DOWN A PAGE FOR BOOKMARKING... you can't do ANYTHING. With the highlighting and note-taking feature of iBooks 2, you can see every note and highlight you've taken in an index... show me a book that does that.
I spent an average of $400 a semester on books in college. You can bet your freaking bippy that I'd have jumped all over this if it had been available. Major savings!

Of course most teachers weren't comfortable with it. That's the resistance to change part i talked about. This means more training for them..more work. At this point, most teachers want to do what's comfortable for them and leave when that bell rings to go home.
The admin and politicians care about scores and funding. Many will resist this because it will cost a boatload to change over to tablets. Although there will be those who want to do this because it looks like they're trying to do something different.
My guess is that it will happen eventually but not anytime soon and not with ipads we see today. That in mind, it's a bit silly to get worked up over it. I see the event as a view into what things could be like. Now they have something to talk about.

" . . .i work in a city school district. . . ." - as a Janitor?
I hope you don't teach language arts! Your post also reads like a child wrote it. Proofread much?

Sure publishers are greedy but apple isn't?? This is what apple is known for. They won't give up too much margin on iPads for this.

I pay $400 to $600 for books ever semester... and that's usually for 4-5 textbooks. Do the math and $500 doesn't seem that unreasonable.

I doubt college textbooks get the 15 dollar treatment. College texts are a different ball game. Don't assume.

My wife works for Pearson in the college textbooks division. I can assure you beyond all doubt that textbook pricing will be set much higher than $15/book.

As much as I think the iPad is a better product, I can't help but think Amazon could trounce Apple's effort with the Kindle Fire. I can't see Apple getting down to the $200 entry price any time soon, or having the clout with publishers that Amazon has at the moment. It all depend on how fast Amazon could move. I also think that the flashy interactive content Apple are offering isn't all that crucial compared to huge storage footprint that is needed. An entry model 16GB iPad is only going to hold about 10 textbooks with little room for anything else, a Kindle Fire with only 6GB free memory could hold a lot more textbooks with out all the flashy multimedia stuff. Just saying...

I have to agree with Brian with him saying that this sounds like it was written by a 12 year old. You sound like a pissed off fanboy just because some of the other people on the Internet don't agree with your opinions. The other people's arguments are valid. The iPad is far overpriced for a college student and especially for a high school student. I'm lucky enough to have parents that allow me to live at home for free while I work full time and go to school so I was fortunate enough to be able to afford an iPad.
Apple rolled this out before it should have. I mean they rolled it out with 8 textbooks? Really? Just 8? How many people is this going to benefit? I was so excited to see that they were going to work with publishers so I could use my iPad for textbooks only to be shot down... For now. I'm hoping they will have figured this out before next semester starts.
Just on a side note. It says that if a post contains innopropriate language it will be removed. What makes it ok for the author to contain it in her post?

My point, though, is that Apple actually hasn't rolled out anything. This is simply a preview of what's to come and they threw a couple books our way to get our hands on and play with. There's more to come.
Oh, and I'm definitely not pissed off. I promise.
I'm just genuinely excited about what Apple has announced and the potential that it has.

Excellent points.
I particularly dislike school kids being forced into one brand of product because the best books are only available there, specially if makes economic sense for the publishers to lock-step with Apple.

Found it, it was in the spam queue between 900 "buy beats by Dre" comments :-/
First part was really rude and totally uncool. You can make points without personally attacking the writer.

You neglected to mention that iPads are actually cheaper than any of the other real tablets (I don't consider nooks and kindles to be real tablets).

That's still irrelevant, though, because it doesn't matter that they're cheaper. $500 for each kid is still too expensive. Not to mention, many argue that the Kindle or Nook would make better devices for textbooks, and that's a whole other article.

Maybe instead of the cost of the iPad alone, one should consider the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership). How much does an iPad + books costs vs the cost of the printed textbooks? Do the books on the iPad provide a better learning experience than the printed version? I believe these questions need to be investigated into instead of the simplistic "cost of the iPad" discussion.

Agreed and add to that equation the benefits that the IPad is already bringing to the education system. (Search for them - helping kids to learn faster, able to engage kids that have a tough time with school material, bridging with autistic kids (adults), etc. And I believe the kindle's smaller screen may not be as suitable.

School districts only buy new books every 4-5 years, so having to buy $500 iPads for all students could end up being very expensive for the district. I wonder if school districts will buy the iPads or if the students family will have to. Peoples tax dollars already go to the schools for textbooks anyways, so having to buy the digital books, iPads and still pay the taxes would suck.

You think a company can donate and write off millions of iPads worth 100's of dollars each? I like the planet you come from.

Why did my comment get deleted? I didnt swear or anything i made valid points which i would know since i work in the education field

Brian,
I don't see any comments from you other than the two above. Nothing in spam, nothing in trash. Did you see it show up after you hit post? Only thing I can think of is a software error. Apologies for that. Please consider reposting it.

Wow one more biased article from this site and I'm unsubscribing. I hate the biasness in these articles and overall just that more and more of these articles sound like "forum" posts.
Here is a hint: there is no need to convince people who are already apple fans that apple is the best... This article feels like apple masturbation.
Also, a company apples size has big shareholders and high stakes for top execs. When they do something, I can faithfully say that it's not a crapshoot in the dark. Again, no need to defend apple on an apple blog. LOL.

@long time.
Bud, or should I say pud. If this site gets you so riled up, go spend your personal time over on the Crackberry site and entertain Kevin. He must be needing some love by now. BB users are dropping like flies.

Wikipedia is our friend:
"The Lisa was first introduced on January 19, 1983 and cost US$9,995 ($21,693.67 in 2009 dollars)"

As a high school English teacher, I cannot wait for iPads to make textbooks a part of educational history. Textbooks, in the written form, have become bloated because of all the extra content, even though it is usually good. If iPads can help my students focus on the real text first and spark curiosity to go beyond that, then I'm all for it.
Also, as an iPad user, I have already seen the extensive uses it can have in an educational environment. Textbooks speeding along the implementation is an amazing feat by Apple.

Basically giving equipment away to schools has been done before, by Apple, for the very reasons you mentioned; they wanted to indoctrinate the children with Mac products with the hope that when they entered the business world, they'd bring their Mac's with them. The Apple II, IIc, and IIe were staples in most elementary schools. It didn't work then and it won't work now. For the most part, people don't chose what a job based on what technology they want, they chose the technology based on what job they have.
Having said that, the iPad is so popular now that it may indoctrinate generations of children regardless of whether it's supplied by a school system or not. Both my children use my iPad for educational and entertainment purposes and are as versed in how it operates as I am. Simply put, it works, very well, and it's simple.

i wonder maybe the rumor's of there being two iPads this year may just be a new iPad 3 with a Retina display and all the bells and whistles and the second model may be one that can only be used for educational purposes because I don't know if anyone mentioned it but kids walking around with iPad's make them easy targets for thieves and robbers.

This discussion is great......passionate, emotional, and with purpose. Educating today's youth is vital to our country's future.
One thing missing, though.
It's winter time. Where are the beanies?

For the past two semesters, I've been buying whatever books I can get on my iPad for college. The advantages over having to haul around physical textbooks have been HUGE for me, and having medical textbooks on a screen where the images can be scaled up and down has been a blessing. But it's not easy finding everything I need. Some books just aren't worth buying in a digital format. Some are flat out not available. If Apple could do something similar to the high school plan at a college level, it would be monumental. Most of the books I buy have been right around $150 for a used book. Some of the classes I'm taking have two textbooks listed as necessary, so for one class, I'm shelling out $300 or more. By the time I've bought my books, i'm about $1000 deep, per semester. My loans are going to have a couple of grand that just cover books. Anything Apple can do to knock that price down is welcome and appreciated.

Thank you apple... I just started using iBooks 2 for biology totsay in class the whole class was amazed of what I could accomplish. The teacher told use to look up and write down the definitions of a couple of words I did it in 3 min flat because while the whole class was searching through the glossary all I had to do was type the word. The iPad is truly magical! Cant wait til the iPad 3!!!

I agree with Rene on an "Ipad Nano"and think Apple should have prices ranging from 299$ to 499$. And just like with paper textbooks, there will be plenty of second hand Ipads in good condition around (as of March 2012 for example).
Subscriptions could also be a solution : a 199$ Ipad3 with a light LTE Verizon data plan could work. Students will mostly rely on Wifi but as the Ipad will be much more than just a textbook it will travel so 3G and GPS will be nice to have.

Lots of apple and orange mixing here, pardon the pun. Yes, this will work great at the college level, where universities are money making institutions and can require students to buy iPads or anything they decide is necessary. Yes, there will be a cost saving to the student.
At the K-12 level, there will be no cost saving to the student because the student is not paying. And in case anyone has missed this - our schools are almost all broke. Those of us in public education have all seen our salaries cut this year, and you know most of us already work a second job.
Due to Federal laws, if a student were to lose or break his iPad, we can't require him or his family to replace it, so you have to expect the school system to put out the $500 again, and if you know children (K-12, remember), they lose things and break things...a lot.

Again, that's jumping to conclusions to say there's a cost savings to college students. You can't convince me yet that college texts will go down in price. But i agree with you about high school.

Well, seeing as currently existing digital textbooks are already cheaper than printed ones (CafeScribe, the digital textbook shop used by eFollet bookstores, has most books at around 40-60% of the printed price), I think it's a safe assumption. ALL of this is speculation at this point, but there's no reason people can't make educated predictions.

I paid (well, my parents paid) for my textbooks k-12 :/ Indiana would go broke otherwise. We didn't buy it outright, but we'd pay around $200 a year for book usage, starting in 3rd grade (k-2 we paid much less). Our area is fairly poor, but most of the schools have iPads for student usage to wild success. Every kid doesn't get one, no, but they have iPads for individual class rental, as opposed to having carts of laptops. It has saved schools quite a bit of money already. I'm sure they will jump on this as well.

Our school district is already supplying laptops to HS kids. I think the iPads would be less expensive and more portable.

My favorite part is this: "Apple knows how to make money...publishers are greedy. Classic. Or, to put it another way: if there's one thing we can all agree on its that Apple is unendingly smart, talented and generally beyond all reproach and content creators are just, well, greedy.
I generally enjoy reading this blog , but it seems like the author checked her critical brain at the door on this one. The recent education announcement is interesting and potentially a game changer, but it is FAR from perfect and raises some serious issues for educational institutions, students and publishers alike. I think that if anyone comes off as "greedy" in this, it's Apple. Read the iBooks Author EULA for starters.

You're right, Apple is greedy, but at least they tend to be a little generous when it comes to education. For consumers, I don't really care about their greed because if people want to pay a premium for Apple products, then more power to them. What bothers me is when there is so much greed involved in education. Schools are dirt poor and teachers don't make enough money. Most of how the education system is designed is completely screwed up and gives money to the wrong people.
Content creators are generally not greedy, it's the publishers that make them charge such high prices. Apple has now provided a way for authors to make their work available without the middle man of the publisher.
As far as the EULA - I think it's completely reasonable. If I publish my book through Pearson, I'm not allowed to go and publish it through someone else. This is no different than Apple's rule. Apple is playing the role of the publisher.
What is different, however, is that Apple is allowing authors to create their content in a very well designed program. For free. And will allow authors to distribute this content for free anywhere they wish. Find me another publisher that will allow me to distribute my book for free - or to be more analogous - at cost.

Your profanity in the beginning of your article cheapens it. I've found that when people use profanity or personal attacks, they have nothing to say.

i routinely spent over 500$ on textbooks in my first few yrs of college, and routinely recieved about 20$ duirng buybacks at the end of the semester before i vowed to never waste money on another one again.
these purchases were made before i realized college is just big business designed to graduate low income students into a lifetime of debt slaver under the guise of "education", and that most all textbooks are completely worthless to own as you can share, use the net, or the library, and the majority of teachers just use them for reference since they constantly change every semester and become outdated (worthless) however i am an art major so, this of course varies from major to major.
btw the average for a text book is not 40-70$ try 80-300$.
i think apples new idea is cool, and its nice to see a glimpse of the future, but i dont see a lowe end ipad coming out, at all. etexts books would be nice because instead of a new version, the existing one could just be update, but lol we all know that wont be free, and that this will nickel and dime us to the fullest extent.

I agree with you Leanna, I think this will be successful. The current textbook industry is disgusting. Because of the cost of books, I didn't get a free public education k-12. I had to pay to use my books, and so did every kid in Indiana. Our state would literally go bankrupt if it had to cover all textbook costs. It doesn't help that the textbook industry tricks schools into thinking they need each new edition, when most of the time all they did was add some small things and rearrange some stuff -- just enough of a change that they felt justified (wrongly, but still) to charge them as full price, new books.
The iPad solution is fantastic. Many of my friends have back problems from years of carrying too-heavy backpacks. That problem can be solved. When you get textbooks from school, you borrow them. That means you can't write in them, you can't highlight them, you can't tab pages... you can just stare at them. With the iPad, you can take notes in the book, you can rotate diagrams (ESPECIALLY useful for the sciences), you can highlight in them, and best of all it keeps an index of all of your notes. So instead of having to flip through an entire textbook to find your sticky notes or go to certain page numbers to find what your notes refer to, you can just go to your index and grab it. Amazing! And search. Oh, search. Potentially gone are the days of flipping through pages trying to find that topic you're looking for. Just search for keywords and boom! The time during studying this could potentially save is wonderful. And this is just high school.
Then you get to college kids. Gone are the days of $1000 textbook semesters (more common than you think). Who knows how much money on books will be saved, but if we're to judge it by current e-textbook sellers, it's around half (source is CafeScribe, which I'd link to but I don't want my comment to be held for moderation). And for most college kids, they could substitute the iPad for a laptop. Of course, not all majors could do this (art kids would be screwed), but for most college computer uses, the iPad can easily complete it all (and for the select few things it can't do, there are always campus computers for use). I could go on and on.
My only disappointment is its limitation to iPads. I understand why it can't be on iPhones (formatting would be HELL), but I don't see why it can't be used on computers :( Heck, even limit it to Macs if you want, Apple. But then it would also benefit those kids that need a computer but would also like to save on textbook costs.
It makes me sad I just graduated college and probably won't ever have a reason to use this :(

Even if colleges embrace this, do you really think they won't just hike up the cost of tuition to make up the lost revenue from textbook sales? Textbooks are to colleges, what text are to the carriers, easy money. I have no problem with students using an iPad for textbooks, but this will still not be a win for a students pocketbook. Let us say that they average dollar spent on textbooks is $300 a semester, well the universities are going to just add that same amount or more into "student fees."

You do realize it costs money to make physical books, right? So why would a school make the digital cost the same as the printed? They'd lose money every time a kid bought a printed book, and when given the choice between a digital and a physical book, both at the same price, I bet most kids would pick the physical just to feel like they actually bought something. By lowering the price of the digital book to at least the price of the regular book minus production costs, it means more kids would buy it, eliminating that production cost since digital books only have to be made one time. Besides, most kids don't buy their textbooks from the bookstore nowadays, let's be real. They don't make a whole lot off textbook sales. But, if they were to make the digital books and sell them at a lower price, they stand to take a lot of business away from sites like half.com. It's a good business move.

Have you ever seen the margins on college textbooks? It's a racket that universities count on every year and it's obvious from your post that you have not been to college in awhile. Students pack their campus bookstores as soon as the semester starts, so they can buy their books. There are those students that will buy used textbooks online or use Chegg.com to rent them, but a vast majority wait till the first day of class to go buy their books. This link from zdnet can show you what it cost for a textbook to be produced.
http://i.zdnet.com/blogs/textbooks.jpg?tag=content;siu-container

Dude, I just graduated this past May... I know EXACTLY what I'm talking about. It's more obvious you don't know what you're talking about. Yeah, the bookstore gets busy, but a majority of students do NOT buy their books there. If a "vast majority" waited until the first day, state schools with 40k+ students would see around 30k students in the bookstore the first day of class, yes? I think not.

Look beyond textbooks, folks. This authoring app can be used to enhance almost any kind of book ...