I don’t care about Apple’s so-called eTextbook “walled garden”

The announcement of Apple’s new foray into the educational textbook market has garnered the usual cries of despair over their so-called walled garden. Oh my, what are schools to do? Gosh, how are we to deal with a proprietary ebook format? Guess what, I don’t care about Apple’s so called walled garden when it comes to the new textbook initiative. Some have decried the fact that adopting an an iBook textbook will lock a K-12 school into a particular format. When schools buy a textbook K-12 schools they often buy sets of textbooks from a particlar publisher so they are in a sense locked into a walled publisher garden. They will use them until the are worn and in some case terribly out of date. The fact is, the new iBook textbooks could reduce book costs, possibly keep them more up to date than print,  and in the process give students a much richer educational experience by having an iPad.

I agree with  Buster Heine from Cult of the Mac observations that Apple’s move will enable people like me to share our expertise with a potentially large audience and maybe make a few bucks at the same time. Am I concerned that it is limited to the iPad? No. Heck, my university is a Microsoft colony that basically pays lip service to us Mac users. I’m willing to create educational products that may only work on particular hardware (at this point) and might not even be used by my students. For me it’s about the creative process and desire to explore new ways to help students learn.

The propriety file format argument is a red herring  that doesn’t hold water in the publishing industry. If they deem it important, textbook publishers have ported their textbooks to multiple formats. Just examine the various platforms that Pearson, McGraw Hill, etc. publish their textbooks in. Unless they’ve been barred from doing so, textbooks from these publishers won’t be exclusive to Apple iBook format.

Tech pundits should really move beyond this old and tired “walled garden” arguement. It really is matter of choice. If you want open, go for it. If you want an Apple experience, adopt it. Pundits, quit trying to demonize one paradigm over the other.

About Michael Ritter PhD
Professor of Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, science textbook author, educational technology blogger, podcaster, and freelance media consultant.

One Response to I don’t care about Apple’s so-called eTextbook “walled garden”

  1. Pingback: iPad Mini: It’s What I Need in a Tablet | The Digital Professor

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