Rumor Roundup: What to Expect from Apple’s Education Event

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Apple is holding an education-themed event in New York on Thursday – the show begins at 10am, and we’ll have a liveblog churning away right here if you want to follow along. While the company is always tight-lipped about its product rollouts until the actual announcements are underway, that’s never stopped the flood of pre-show rumors, speculation and quotes from mysterious (and anonymous, of course) sources supposedly familiar with Apple’s plans.

Bloomberg cites the tried-and-true “two people with knowledge of the announcement, who requested anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly” as revealing that the announcement will be helmed by Apple SVP of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue.

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Cue, says Bloomberg, will unveil Apple’s plans to muscle its way into the lucrative textbook game by making iPad versions of learning materials for students between kindergarten and high school age more plentiful. How? By rolling out tools that make it easier for publishers to create iPad versions of textbooks and, perhaps more importantly, to make it easy for teachers and other self-publishers to create their own iPad-ready educational content.

Apple currently has a process to facilitate self-publishing of books for inclusion in its “iBookstore” but it entails meeting a list of requirements such as having an ISBN (International Standard Book Number – basically a globally-recognized serial code for your book) and a method for accepting payments. If that’s too complicated, Apple also has a list of approved third-party aggregators you can work with instead.

The new system Apple is rolling out, however, is apparently geared much more toward teachers looking “to design materials for that week’s lesson” or anyone looking to “publish professional-looking content without a deal with a publisher,” says Bloomberg. Material that teachers create to augment their lessons would be free, I’d think, but it’ll be interesting to see if and how other types of self-published educational content would be sold using this new system. Perhaps teachers could, in fact, package dynamite lesson plans for sale to other teachers, too, though.

Ars Technica is likening the system to a “GarageBand for e-books,” citing “sources close to the matter” as saying Apple will announce a tool on Thursday that mimics the simplicity of the company’s GarageBand music creation software, but for electronic books.

The articles by both Bloomberg and Ars Technica, as well as two additional articles by the Wall Street Journal (here and here) allude to late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ desire to shake up the textbook industry – a desire conveyed in Walter Isaacson’s popular Steve Jobs biography.

Not that it should be too surprising, but Apple’s new system may end up closely resembling the systems it’s built for selling music, movies, apps and regular e-books. Matt MacInnis of Inkling – a company that creates interactive iPad textbooks – told Ars Technica the following:

“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,” continuing, “Practically speaking, Apple does not want to get into the content publishing business.”

Apple’s not in the content publishing business as far as apps, music and movies are concerned, either, so it stands to reason that the company’s foray into textbooks might look very similar to how it currently sells apps, music, movies and regular (non-textbook) e-books – let other people create the content, and then take a cut of what’s sold from inside Apple’s marketplace.

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