Are $15 Digital Textbooks Coming to the iPad?

Dennis Faas's picture

Those of us who attended college know just how expensive course textbooks can be. So it's good news that students may be able to purchase much cheaper, digital editions of these required texts for their iPad tablet computers.

Apple recently unveiled iBooks 2, software it says could revolutionize the U.S. (and perhaps global) education market.

Apple has been working closely with major textbook producers, including Pearson PLC, McGraw-Hill, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, in search  of a viable, digital alternative to those very expensive physical texts. Together, these three firms own roughly 90 per cent of the $8 billion American textbook market. (Source:

Digital High School Textbooks for Just $15

The idea right now would involve allowing students the ability to buy their textbooks directly through Apple. Although details remain sketchy, high school texts would cost around $15 for use with the iPad, and they'd come with several interactive features not found in printed textbooks.

It remains unknown exactly how much digitized university and college textbooks would cost, though it will probably be significantly more. Still, they're likely to cost far less than the traditional printed texts, some of which cost well over a hundred dollars.

Whatever the price structure, Apple stands to earn a considerable slice of the revenue. Experts estimate its share to be about 30 per cent.

Digital Textbooks "For Every Subject For Every Level"

McGraw-Hill chief executive officer Terry McGraw credits the late Steve Jobs for helping pioneer the idea of digital textbooks. McGraw says he had been discussing such a project with the former Apple chairman as early as June 2011.

Although Jobs is now gone, Apple's current executives continue to support this project. Apple chief of marketing Phil Schiller said that with an estimated 1.5 million iPads already being used in educational institutions across the U.S., it makes sense to allow for a replacement of  the "cumbersome" physical textbook.

"It's hard not to see that the textbook is not always the ideal learning tool," Schiller said.

Schiller says that when the project moves ahead, "You'll see [digital] textbooks for every subject for every level." (Source:

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