Apple jumps into digital textbooks fray

Thu Jan 19, 2012 3:14pm EST
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By Yinka Adegoke

NEW YORK, Jan 19 - Apple Inc took a big jump into the digital textbooks market with the launch of its iBooks 2 software on Thursday, aiming to revitalize the U.S. education market and quicken the adoption of its market-leading iPad in that sector.

The giant consumer electronics company has been working on digital textbooks with publishers Pearson PLC, McGraw-Hill Cos Inc and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, a trio responsible for 90 percent of textbooks sold in the United States.

The move pits the maker of the iPod and iPhone against Inc and other content and device makers that have made inroads into the estimated $8 billion market with their electronic textbook offerings.

It could also see Apple shake up the traditional textbook market significantly, changing the emphasis from content to hardware; but publishers said working would be a great opportunity to revive and expand the market.

"I give such incredible marks to Steve Jobs and Apple for having this vision and pushing it through the iPad," said Terry McGraw, chief executive of McGraw-Hill. He said he had been talking to Apple's founder Jobs and his team since last June about recreating textbooks as applications. Jobs died in October.

He said having textbooks on iPads will open up the market beyond high school and university students to everyday consumers. "I think without a doubt this will open up a learning agency for anybody and anywhere."

The early plan is to enable students to buy their books directly through Apple rather than through their school districts. The books in the pilot launch are priced at $14.99 each on the iPad, with a range of interactive features.

McGraw confirmed that Apple would take a cut of each sale, believed to be its standard amount of some 30 percent. He said he was "very relaxed" about having to share his profits with Apple, as printing and distributing textbooks accounts for about 25 percent of their cover prices.   Continued...