Apple Textbooks: On Its Way to Revolutionizing Education

The latest brainchild out of the Apple idea factory is textbooks that are published through their iBooks app. While it may seem like Apple is sticking its nose in an area it doesn’t need to be in, the ideas so far, in just the beginning stages of the program, are definitely admirable.

It’s easy to see how the idea of textbooks being available on mobile devices, primarily an iPad, would be beneficial, but how do they work, and what’s the difference between using a digitized textbook and the standard textbooks that are printed?


Textbooks are available through the iBooks app that you’re already using to read ebooks. They sit right on the shelf next to the other books. To shop for new textbooks, just tap the Store button and go directly to the Textbooks category to find the ones that are presently available.


These textbooks can have a large price tag on them, such at $15, so they offer you an option of downloading a sample first, just to be sure this is what you’re looking for. These are the same textbooks being used in schools. Currently, the purpose is for it to be used as an additional studying tool for students, and not meant to replace their current textbooks. It definitely beats carrying multiple heavy books home every night in a backpack.


A digitized textbook can offer many other ways to learn that a standard printed textbook doesn’t. For parents it can be particularly helpful with Maths, as the new Maths methods that they routinely come up with can sometimes seem like a foreign language. This textbook sample shows another way to do subtraction and plays out like a video with the user hitting play to go the next step. If the student forgets the lesson they learned that day, it’s all right there.


Additionally, the digitized textbooks can present information in a more attractive manner that can make students want to learn more. This example has an animated young woman showing how to do a particular math problem. It also has audio behind each step. Attractive videos are used throughout as well. Standard textbooks are only presented in a visual text format, but not everyone is a visual learner. To be able to present it in all these other ways helps everyone learn.


Of course, Maths isn’t the only subject available in textbooks. This earth science book shows an interactive quiz. Sure, standard textbooks can include quizzes for students to take on their own, but this one doesn’t involve them having to get out a separate sheet of paper and a pencil or pen. They can do it all right here within the digital textbook.


There’s no need to deface a book by using a highlighting marker on important passages. Text can be highlighted digitally. Simply drag your finger over the information you want to remember so that you can refer back to it again later, and it highlights it and brings up a color choice and an option of saving it as a note. Additionally words can be looked up in a dictionary or glossary, and if the highlighted word or phrase isn’t found there, it can be searched on the web or in Wikipedia.


This makes it easy for notes to be collected all together. Instead of having to refer back to the notes through the pages, the student can see them all collected at once or by chapter. They can also be searched, eliminating the need to flip page by page looking for a certain word of phrase.


These notes can also be arranged into digitized note cards to aid in the studying process. Instead of students having to make their own handmade note cards as a study aid, they can be produced in seconds from the notes that were taken. These can be presented in numerous different ways, including Shuffle.

Apple’s digital textbooks offer up so many additional study aids that can only help students learn. At the time this is being written, there are only ten textbooks available in iTunes; however, more are being added weekly. Of these ten, my daughter recognized the Maths book sampled here as being the same one freshmen Algebra students in her school use. This means the textbooks being uploaded are the ones they are actually using in schools. Perhaps someday technology will progress to the point that all learning is done via iPads and digital textbooks. It could only lead to good things.

Laura Tucker
Laura Tucker

Laura has spent nearly 20 years writing news, reviews, and op-eds, with more than 10 of those years as an editor as well. She has exclusively used Apple products for the past three decades. In addition to writing and editing at MTE, she also runs the site's sponsored review program.

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