Is the textbook on the way out?

It is one of those questions that seems always to be around. People used to ask if the chalk board was doomed. And there must have been a time (although long forgotten) when people wondered why typewriter manufacturers would be doing in a few years time (presumably nothing).

At the moment the question being asked – at least rhetorically by Apple – is, is there any life left in the school text book?

There’s good reason to like the text book (it is generally cheap and doesn’t need any technology) and good reason to dislike it (it is fixed, it goes out of date quickly, it consumes valuable resources in its manufacture, and it is utterly non-interactive).

Quite whether Apple has brought about the end of traditional school book publishing is anyone’s guess – but what they have done is invented their own “ibooks textbooks for ipad”. That is hardly a good catchphrase, but the earlier one they used (a GarageBand for e-books) depended on you knowing what “garage” means in the Apple world. (It is a method of composing music using a computer).

So now we have a method of writing e-books without all the laborious programming and the like. If they have got it right then the world is about to go through another one of those major transformations that it now seems to go through every two or three minutes. Traditional class books will go the way of typewriters, shorthand and secretarial classes, and this will be the new thing.

Or maybe it already is the new thing. Maybe, by not writing about this for a couple of weeks I have missed the boat, the revolution has come and gone and Google is even as I write launching its own version which is cheaper, faster, better….

If have know more about this development than I do, please do let me know so I can pass on your thoughts to everyone. Meanwhile, here’s the Apple page on the subject.

Tony Attwood

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