This morning, Apple upended the publishing industry.
As I wrote several weeks back, "the e-book, above all others, is overdue for modernization." Apple has evidently taken such a thought and run with it. Moreover, Apple has identified the e-book genre most in need of evolution: the textbook.
Allowing for publishers, educators, and independent individuals to simply drag and drop content into a free piece of software and push the content to the iBookstore is an enormous step, and it is likely set to become the key differentiator between Apple, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble's respective electronic offerings.
Slicing through the density of the typical textbook, Apple has facilitated an environment for the average student to interact efficiently and actively with a textbook. No more weight to carry, out-of-date cultural references, and images of the USSR in maps -- just up-to-date, accessible, intuitive textbooks.
The complimentary introduction of iTunes U for iOS further solidifies the significance of such developments, insofar as iOS devices are now capable of existing as the average college student's backpack. No need to remember the right folder, notebook, or textbook, just grab your iPad and go.
The iPad, although not the best means for reading traditional text, is a marvelous means for consuming rich media. Meshing the two together, as Condé Nast has begun to do (somewhat unsuccessfully) with magazines, makes sense for textbooks, and Apple has done well to recognize that.
Apple's evolution of the textbook, in my opinion, is indicative of the way the publishing industry, in its entirety, is progressing. The typical e-book's simplistic mirroring of its paper counterpart is a noble cause, but technology has fostered an environment in which the concept of the printed word is able to evolve. I have no doubt that such a concept is detestable to many, but it is becoming increasingly likely that this is how the industry will progress.
Simply put, today's announcement might apply specifically to textbooks, but there's a reason the authoring tool falls under the iBooks moniker.
Providing a means for the intuitive construction of a new generation of e-books without the need for programming knowledge is of enormous significance to the publishing industry, students, and eventually, consumers, and its impact is likely to be sizable.