Apple Unveils iTunes U, Announces iBooks 2, iBooks Author and Updates iTunes

Apple Unveils iTunes U, Announces iBooks 2, iBooks Author and Updates iTunes

Big day for Apple and the education market today as our favorite fruit-flavored tech company revealed at an event in New York City that it will, as we discussed last week, be getting into the textbook publishing business in a big way. Apple’s VP of marketing Phil Schiller announced several new components of the initiative including iTunes U as a separate iOS app, which gives users of Apple’s new iBooks 2 iOS app access to textbooks from several top publishers to be read on the iPad.

The new textbooks are modern and interactive instead of plain old paper. They support multitouch gestures and also feature dictionary look-up integration and annotation. Students can even highlight text, take notes and create virtual note cards to reference later while studying. Wish this was around when I was in school.

At launch, high school-level textbooks are available in the iBookstore and priced at $14.99 or less. Expect more textbooks to come along in the near future. The first group of publishers with textbooks available for the iPad include Pearson, McGraw Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

The new version of iTunes U, which spins off from the iBooks app into its own, standalone version, gives teachers a variety of new tools to create and manage curriculums, and they can also use the app to give assignments to their classes or even stream live content. Students can take notes in the app just as they can in Apple’s new digital textbooks, and courses from a number of universities including Yale and Harvard are currently available. iTunes U for iPad is available immediately for free in the iOS App Store.

To create interactive textbooks and other digital books for the iPad, Apple has also introduced iBooks Author. The Mac OS X application provides robust tools that let anyone build and publish interactive digital books for Apple’s iBooks store.

It has the same look and feel as Apple’s iWork apps, and includes features like gallery support, 3D animation, video and interactive image support and more. Users can even insert custom Javascript or HTML5 code into eBooks using iBooks Author.

In addition to all the other content and news today, Apple also updated iTunes to version 10.5.3 to take full advantage of the new iBooks and iTunes U functionality. It is now available via Software Update. iBooks 2 is available immediately as a free download in Apple’s iOS App Store. iBooks Author is available in the Mac App Store for free as well.

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