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iPad and ebooks

Posted on | February 2, 2010 | No Comments

Last week, just about anyone in the first world waited anxiously to see what kind of tablet computer Steve Jobs would unveil. Afterward, there has been a little controversy about the iPad.

But what’s the big picture here?

One thing to consider is that Apple has an amazing competency in the education market, and they may seek to capitalize on this market as a way to introduce the iPad to the mainstream.

Apple has already forged partnerships with several of the largest publishers including notable textbook publisher Macmillan. Kindle has so far failed to capture the education segment of the ebook market, and the current eInk based device is insufficient for many textbook uses (no color, small screen, etc). iPad, for all it’s shortcomings, *may* be a better device to satisfy the textbook market need.

This is a large market, and it is theoretically possible that Apple could incentivize iPad sales by offering not only educational discounts on iPad, but also discounted textbooks to students. A typical college student currently spends between $600 and $1,000/year on textbooks, which means there is enough “meat” here to offer large discounts. Imagine a $199 iPad including $99 in free textbooks. I can think of a few students who might jump at this chance.

What’s missing now is compelling ebook content. The large number of existing ebooks are not very interactive — they are little more than glorified text files. But the EPUB format, which iPad supports, is very sophisticated. Based on XML, full hypertext capabilities and rich media support is included (but not Flash ;). And iPad is actually a *great* platform for interactive books, given this content is created by the publishers. Something right out of Alan Kay’s “Dynabook” concept.

Now that would really be revolutionary.

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