Apple’s recent education event in New York City drew speculation far and wide for the implications it may have for the company and the digital textbook industry as a whole. Would we see the release of a new iPad or iPad program? Would Apple roll out a large-scale textbook initiative? How would consumers and investors react to the company’s first major event in the post-Steve Jobs era? As with any other Apple news, the New York event was shrouded by rumor.
As it turns out, many of the predictions ended up being true. No, we were not treated to an unveiling of a new iPad, but Apple did release a new digital textbook application (iBooks 2), a program to help turn textbook authors into self-publishers (iBooks Author), and a teacher-focused upgrade to its iTunes U. The company further announced that it had signed a deal to offer cheap digital textbooks – priced at under $15 – in conjunction with the three largest national publishers in the elementary market: McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
So how has the venture fared in the early going? According analysts from Global Equities Research, the numbers speak a pretty successful story: users bought over 350,000 digital textbooks in just the first three days that the iBooks 2 was available. The iBooks Author service was also downloaded over 90,000 times. These numbers exceed pre-announcement expectations and suggest that consumers are excited to take advantage of Apple’s digital textbook offerings.
This initial excitement is important for Apple’s strategy as the company goes forward. For its digital textbook investment to succeed, Apple needs schools, students, and parents to be willing to pay the upfront cost of an iPad in exchange for cheaper textbook fees down the road. The high levels of initial use show that iPad users of all backgrounds see value in digital textbooks. In turn, the company now hopes to drum up excitement among non-iPad users.
Further success in the digital textbook marketplace could signal a major turning point for Apple, a company which can already provide consumers with technological capabilities as varied as movie editing software and reverse white pages lookups. Now, Apple is banking on education being the next tech frontier. So far, the numbers give no sign that the consumer would disagree.