Apple launches iBooks 2 digital textbooks

The company says the new "experience" for kids will be much better than what they find with traditional textbooks.

Apple's new textbook offerings in the iBookstore.
Apple's new textbook offerings in the iBookstore. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Apple this morning showed off digital textbooks at its education event in New York.

The service, dubbed iBooks 2, will allow textbook makers to create fully interactive titles for Apple's iPad. According to the company, users will be able to swipe across the display to open textbook pages and view movies within each chapter. The operating system's familiar pinch and tapping features are also available, giving users more interaction with titles.

It's the interactivity that Apple was focused on. The company says that kids will be able to see 3D images and rotate them to get a better feel for what, for example a DNA structure looks like. The books can also be switched between portrait mode and landscape modes to make text and images easier to interact with.

As with traditional textbooks, students can easily mark up titles from the iPad. Apple showed how kids can highlight text and add a note to a page. All those notes can then be combined to make study cards. Those cards, which are basically virtual 3-by-5-inch cards, let students put a topic on one side and the definition on the other, similar to flash cards.

A look at iBooks 2 at Apple's NYC event.
A look at iBooks 2 at Apple's NYC event. Bridget Carey/CNET

Apple has already formed partnerships with a host of major textbook makers, including Pearson, McGraw Hill, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. That's important. According to Apple, those companies are responsible for 90 percent of all textbooks in the U.S.

To spur people to develop textbooks, Apple has launched a new application. Dubbed iBooks Author , the free Mac OS X application lets authors create both textbooks and books. The application includes templates to quickly create books, but users can also drag and drop images and video into the title. To add text, Apple lets users drag and drop a Word file from Finder into a chapter. The application then automatically creates sections and headers.

So, where can the textbooks be found? According to Apple, iBooks 2 is an application that's downloaded from the App Store to the iPad for free. The textbooks themselves are priced at $14.99 or less, Apple says, and once purchased, the textbooks can be redownloaded at no additional charge. A textbook section has also been added to the iBooks store.

Apple's iBooks 2 is available starting today. Textbooks focusing on science, math, and other disciplines are currently being offered.

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