Apple sets sights on students with iTunes U, iBooks 2

Its new educational offerings include digital textbooks, an application to create those titles, and a new education portal.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read
Apple's new textbooks are in the iBookstore.
Apple's new textbooks are in the iBookstore. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Apple didn't surprise anyone at its New York City event today, but the company did underscore its intention to make its market in education.

The company kicked off its event at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum today discussing the troubles American students are having competing against those in other countries. Apple, vying to be the hero, said it has some solutions to improve educational quality for students.

The first is iBooks 2 for iPad. The offering allows textbook makers to sell their titles to iPad owners for $14.99 or less. In a demonstration, Apple showed how interactivity stands at the center of its textbook push, allowing students to view videos and even 3D images from within a title. In addition, the textbooks support note-taking, flash cards, and highlighting.

Apple says iBooks 2 is designed to solve the major issues hurting today's textbooks--a lack of durability, portability, searchability and interactivity, not to mention outdated content.

Apple also announced a new application, called iBooks Author, that will help writers publish their iBooks with all the interactive elements shown off in Apple's digital textbooks. The free Mac OS X app lets authors drag-and-drop their text into chapters, add multimedia content, and once complete, publish the books (or textbooks) to Apple's iBookstore.

Finally, Apple unveiled the new iTunes U, an application designed to be an educational hub for both educators and students to manage all their classes in one place. The service includes panes for professors to create and manage their courses, and places for students to see and complete assignments, find notes, and more. As one might expect, iTunes U works alongside Apple's digital textbooks.

Apple says it won't charge users to download the iBooks 2 app or iBooks Authors. iTunes U is also available for free. Apple plans to generate revenue on royalty splits with textbook makers, education app developers.