Yesterday, before shutting down for the day (both electronically & mentally) I took the time to catch up with Apple’s latest ‘event’, which was entirely dedicated to learning. At the event they announced a couple of new products which I think are real game changers:
- a new version of iBooks that displays more interactive books
- a new app for the Mac called iBooks Author
If you have a Mac you can now create interactive iBooks for the iPad and publish them in seconds. So far, so good – and it is very good. I fired it up this morning and saw what it can do: pages of text and photos, photo galleries, interactive photos, Keynote presentations, movies, quizzes and custom HTML widgets can all be combined into a finished eBook which you can preview immediately on your iPad (if you’re lucky enough to have one). The idea came (according to yesterday’s rumours) from seeing the app that was developed for Al Gore’s book ‘Our Choice’, and indeed the feature set is very similar… And it really does work, too. If you want to go a little further you can get them on the Apple Store and offer them free of charge to your learners, or as paid options (with the obligatory 30% going to Apple, of course).
If you’re in the States, the other big news connected to this announcement was that Apple have done deals with the likes of Pearson to offer a range of textbooks with a capped pricing of US$15. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth followed… how did publishers hope to make their money back (simple, really – instead of publishing a US$75 textbook and having it resold every year for five or so years in a second-hand market where you don’t see any profit, now you sell a textbook every year for five years for US$15, and the buyer can’t sell it on)… how were kids going to afford iPads (perhaps by saving up all the money they would have spent on outrageously expensive textbooks)… what were they going to do now they would be growing up without messing their backs up carrying suitcases of books around the streets, etc., etc.
Whichever way you look at it, this is a game changer and the ePub format looks decidedly dull – I can imagine buying a novel in the old format, because there you’re only interested in the written word – but for learning, for passion, for content, for art, for interaction, the Kindle doesn’t really get there. And yes I do see that Kindles are much cheaper and there are reasons people buy them. The OS community may need to step up to the plate here and look at developing an open source format with decent media features that will run on a wide variety of platforms and on cheaper tools such as Android tablets, traditional netbooks and laptops, etc. Whatever happens, I don’t think the electronic book will look like black text on a white screen for much longer.
Speaking of Android, I’ve been playing (for the past week) with a new Android tablet (it’s an Asus Transformer Prime, since you ask) and it’s a lovely bit of kit – the first quad-core tablet with a decent nVidia chip, lots of horsepower, a lovely bright display and all packaged up with a dockable keyboard which allows expansion with SD cards, USB, etc. There’s also an 8MP rear-facing camera, though you do look decidedly stupid using it as a camera outside and under the public gaze. It’s fast… very! Ice Cream Sandwich is an improvement over the last iteration of Android that I played with, but it still looks like the ugly bumpkin cousin to the city chic of iOS – though I’m told some people prefer this…
I’ve not done an awful lot with it yet, due to a writing deadline at the end of the month, but I’m planning to take it on a couple of trips soon to see how it holds up against the iPad as an all-round travel device. In the meantime, if you have any Android app recommendations, I’d love to hear them.