Put to the Test: iBook2 Textbooks

2/29/2012 By: Christine Weiser

www.apple.com Retail Price: $14.95 per license (one user, one iPad)

The launch of Apple’s iBook2 last January met with great fanfare, along with some grumblings from the blogosphere. Apple’s partnership with big textbook publishers like McGraw-Hill and Pearson means that many popular textbooks are now available in digital versions for the iPad.

The Upside: Because the textbooks can be purchased through iTunes, downloading titles is very simple. This reviewer evaluated the Miller & Levine Biology textbook and McGraw-Hill’s Physics textbook. Both digital textbooks were colorful and inviting, embedding media tools like video, additional photography, and “self-check” quizzes that let students answer questions to test their comprehension.

Each iBook utilizes the swipe and pinch touch technology with which iPad users are familiar. Tools such as notes and highlighting are simple and intuitive. Students can use the notes tool to make their own study cards that can be linked to specific textbook content. Charts and graphs pop up rather than clutter a printed page.

The Downside: The iBook2 textbook is just that: a digital textbook for the iPad. The iBook cannot be read on other devices, not even other Apple devices. The digital presentation is clean and engaging. However, the Apple-supplied template means all of the textbooks have basically the same look and functionality.

The price of $14.99 buys a title that can be redeemed within a student’s iTunes account and can not be transferred. That title belongs to the student, no matter who paid for it, and travels with that student’s iTunes account.

Because the e–textbook is stored locally on the iPad, that would limit the number of textbooks students can store on their iPads. The publishers have not yet made a teacher edition available, but the program can be used with the Teacher’s Edition in print or eText, using the same chapter structure, lessons, and assessment options.

The iBook2 textbook titles are clearly a very early answer by publishers to the question of how to market educational content in a digital world. The iBook textbooks are clean, easy to use, and the additional media make them more appealing than bulky paper textbooks. For teachers and students looking for a simple answer to digital textbooks, iBook2 textbooks are a good choice.

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