Apple Poised to ‘Digitally Destroy’ Textbooks? Don’t Bet On It

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We’ll be there (and live-blogging) at Apple’s “education event” this Thursday, Jan. 19 at New York’s Guggenheim Museum, but the scuttlebutt going in has Cupertino announcing a platform to — wait for it — “digitally destroy” textbooks. Translation: Either Apple never said that, or J.J. Abrams is now handling the company’s PR.

We’re betting the former: The latter’s what Ars Technica led with yesterday, scare quoting those two words in its story title, but weirdly saying nothing more about them (or why they got bunny ears) in the story itself.

In fact Ars seems not to have noticed that its story contradicts the (melodramatic) headline.

(MORE: How to Borrow Library Books on Your Kindle)

The article writer surmises Apple’s planning to announce a tool that’ll makes authoring standards-compliant e-books as simple as typing things up in a word processor. Then he hands the mic to e-publisher Inkling CEO Matt MacInnis, who says “When you think about what Apple is doing… they are selling tens of thousands of iPads into K-12 institutions. What are they doing with those iPads? They don’t really replace textbooks, because there’s not very much content on offer… Practically speaking, Apple does not want to get into the content publishing business.”

Does Ars’ “digitally destroy textbooks” and MacInnis’ “[doesn’t] really replace textbooks” parse weird to you, too?

It did for Fortune‘s Philip Elmer-DeWitt, who got MacInnis on the horn himself, at which point the Inkling CEO said “Apple is not trying to kill the incumbents. They’ve learned their lesson from upending the music industry.”


While MacInnis reiterated his belief that this event should see a new Apple tool for creating iPad textbooks, he told Fortune they weren’t a “GarageBand for e-books” (that phrase was imagined or perhaps misunderstood by Ars) and that the whole thing is actually designed to complement the textbook biz, not breathe Godzilla-style atomic death on it.

Tune in here Thursday at 10 a.m. ET for Techland’s full coverage of the event.

MORE: New E-Book Reader First to Integrate Google Bookstore

Matt Peckham is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @mattpeckham, Google+ or Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.