Apple Leaving Colleges Out Of Its iPad-In-Education Push Is A Brilliant Move

Apple Leaving Colleges Out Of Its iPad-In-Education Push Is A Brilliant Move

Apple's e-textbooks and iPad in education initiative leaves colleges largely out of the picture - for good reasons

Apple’s e-textbook initiative, which the company launched in January along with iBooks Author and a revamped iTunes U service is aimed at K-12 schools rather than higher education. Higher education has a different set of needs when it comes to textbooks, study, and reference materials. There are also big differences in device/platform selection between K-12 and the college market.

In fact, these differences are probably a big part of why Apple decided to focus the majority of its e-textbook (and, by extension its iPad in education) effort on the K-12 market. It’s a market that yields Apple more growth opportunities now and down the road. 

The biggest difference between K-12 and higher education in this respect is the selection of devices and platforms. At the middle or high school level, students really aren’t involved in the decision about what technologies they’ll be using at school. A district’s school board, administration, and IT department are typically the deciders. That means each school or district has a uniform selection of technologies – be that iPads, MacBooks, desktop PCs, or anything else.

These technologies are typically purchased by the school or district, particularly in public schools where each student is expected to have equal access to materials and services (as opposed to private schools, which can stipulate required items for parents to purchase). The mass purchase also means that all devices have the same mobile management solutions, a core set of required apps, and potentially e-textbooks.

Textbook selection tends to follow a similar path, with choices being made at the district or state level that create a common selection regardless of individual teachers or classes. As with technology, the bulk purchase means that all students receive copies of the same books and teachers all work from the same syllabus.

At colleges and universities, things are very different. Although some courses may have specific requirements as far as technologies or materials, there is no universal systems that says that all students must have iPads or Kindles or anything else. This personal choice means students can pick their options – including the option to forego digital texts and rely on traditional textbooks.

This has lead to a lot of discussion about whether e-textbooks are really the best option for college students. As Caroline Vanderlip CEO of SharedBook Inc. notes in a recent column for Inside Higher Ed, the big priority for most college students is cost and e-textbooks along with open source textbooks don’t guarantee dramatically lower costs – or even slightly lower costs. Vanderlip makes a significant point in that the ultimate cost of textbooks (any books really) are tied more to the costs and processes of acquiring, editing, and formatting content more than they are to the costs physical printing and shipping.

Vanderlip also notes the college students have a range options when it comes to acquiring textbooks and reference materials that go well beyond anything at the K-12 level. There’s the traditional ability to purchased used textbooks, the more recent trend of textbook rental services, and the ability to shop around online for print and digital editions at lower costs than the college store as well as the option for  sharing textbooks.

With significant differences like these, it’s obvious why Apple’s e-textbook and iPad in education efforts are better focused on the K-12 market – it’s a much easier system to disrupt while providing advantages to both students and educators. Of course, the big payoff for Apple won’t be just iPad sales to schools. After years of learning in Apple’s digital ecosystem, there’s a good chance that many of today’s middle and high school students will stick with the Apple platform when they go to college.

Related
  • aardman

    ” . . . the ultimate cost of textbooks are tied more to the costs and processes of acquiring, editing, and formatting content more than they are to the costs physical printing and shipping”

    I call a big fat, steaming, stinky, fly-infested pile of b.s. on that statement. If that were true, why does the exact same textbook’s overseas edition sell way cheaper than the U.S. edition? The main cause of high textbook prices in the U.S. is the monopoly power that the publishers exert on its captive market of college students, served to them on a platter by the nation’s colleges and universities.

  • Jairo Gomez

    This is bullcrap. Who cares about high school students. If they can afford having an iPad they should be able to pass their classes without one. Its ignorant to spoil a teenager with a $500+ tablet if they can’t even pass freaking Algebra 1. College is where digital textbooks are actually needed.

  • TyMoldovan

    ” . . . the ultimate cost of textbooks are tied more to the costs and processes of acquiring, editing, and formatting content more than they are to the costs physical printing and shipping”

    I call a big fat, steaming, stinky, fly-infested pile of b.s. on that statement. If that were true, why does the exact same textbook’s overseas edition sell way cheaper than the U.S. edition? The main cause of high textbook prices in the U.S. is the monopoly power that the publishers exert on its captive market of college students, served to them on a platter by the nation’s colleges and universities.

    Completely and totally agree with you on that one, its bull. Not saying iPads in k-12 is bad, my nieces and nephews use them and they are great tools for all ages. But to deny the access to College/university textbooks in the iBooks iTunes U stores is utterly ridiculous.

  • Carl E Creasman Jr

    As the “decider” for textbook purchasing in the field of history at my community college, I can tell you that the idea of ebooks NOT being cheaper is UNTRUE! We looked at 5 different publishers for two different fields (US and Western Civ history) and the books were all at least 30% cheaper, with the best topping in at 50%.

  • technochick

    Completely and totally agree with you on that one, its bull. Not saying iPads in k-12 is bad, my nieces and nephews use them and they are great tools for all ages. But to deny the access to College/university textbooks in the iBooks iTunes U stores is utterly ridiculous.

    They aren’t deny access to anything. The publishers can put their collegiate textbooks in iBooks if they wish. THey can use the new iBooks Author tool if they wish.

    All Apple is doing is not hyping up such uses on the collegiate level. Likely because they know that that trend has already started and doesn’t need help from them. The K-12 level is a totally different game and needs the push they are getting

  • technochick

    This is bullcrap. Who cares about high school students. If they can afford having an iPad they should be able to pass their classes without one. Its ignorant to spoil a teenager with a $500+ tablet if they can’t even pass freaking Algebra 1. College is where digital textbooks are actually needed.

    Clearly you aren’t a teacher having to deal with outdated materials or text books that are falling apart after 2 years of use but will be used for another 3 or more before they are replaced. Or the kid stuck using one of those falling apart books. Then perhaps you would have some understanding of the issue.

    And if you stop looking at just the money issue and your feeling that such things are just toys to spoil kids then perhaps you might see where the inactivity of something like an iPad can be used to help those ‘brat’s pass those math classes.

About the author

Ryan FaasRyan Faas is a technology journalist and consultant living in upstate New York who has written extensively about Apple, business and enterprise IT, and the mobile industry. In addition to writing for Cult of Mac, he is a contributor to Computerworld, InformIT, and Peachpit Press. In a previous existence he was a healthcare IT director as well as a systems and network administrator. Follow Ryan on Twitter and Google +

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