Apple Textbooks vs The Textbook Industry

It was recently announced that Apple will soon be entering the textbook industry with their “Apple Textbooks”.  The technology titan is apparently bored with dominating its current niches and sees a market that they believe they can make a solid profit in.  I think this is a fantastic thing for students and textbook costs.  I am a recent Apple convert and definitely not one of the “hipster” types that the brand is sometimes associated with.  I still don’t see the need to pay such a price premium on something like an Apple laptop, but I bought the iPhone and it is absolutely phenomenal.  I’m not much of a technology guy, but Apple programming is so intuitive and so user-friendly, that I really can’t say enough good things about it.  When you consider the young demographic that Apple absolutely dominates, the textbook industry just makes so much sense.  It is no surprise to me that with smart management decisions like this, the company just keeps on growing (it recently passed Exxon as the largest company on the USA stock exchange, with a market cap of over $416 billion!).

 Just What Is This “Fruit Company” Lieutenant Dan Speaks Of?

Apple textbooks
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With so many students out there already owning Apple products and having an Apple iStore account to buy things like apps and iTunes amongst other things, you have to believe the infrastructure to sell online apple textbooks is already right there.  How much different is an eBook from a song or app?  They could be purchased much the same way.  When you stop to consider all the costs this would eliminate, the competitive advantage Apple textbooks would have is huge!  Electronic documents would obviously have much less production costs than paper and hardcover, but that’s only where the savings would begin.  Think about the cost of transporting books to bookstores, or shipping if you buy from Amazon (like you should be currently), in addition to the retail costs that brick-and-mortar campus bookstores incur.  Simply point, click, and download!  It eliminates so many middlemen and even more awesome, it eliminates the need to wait in line at the campus bookstore!

Couldn’t They Roll Apple Textbooks Out Tomorrow?

Textbooks sold over a platform such as an iPad or a Kindle-like competitor specifically designed for academics could be infused with some really cool characteristics.  Consider interactive quizzes, and updates that you could simply download instead of buying a new textbook (or trying to photocopy a whole chapter).  It would be much easier to simply bring your iPad to class as opposed to lugging books around, and even making modifications to notes or the “textbook” as you were listening to a lecture would offer students so many more educational options.

How Many Minimum Wage Hours Do You Donate To The Textbook Industry?

I don’t know about you, but as a student, I resent the current oligarchy that a few textbook companies currently share.  Their profit margins are absolutely ridiculous, and there is really no true competition to keep them in line.  Campus bookstores take advantage of their location and further inflate the final cost to students, and then the professors change the version of the text every year in order to pad their pockets as well!  The whole thing is ripe to be torn up by a cutting-edge innovator with the brand recognition and track record of  Apple.  The original numbers being thrown around had the average textbook price coming in at $20-$25 once Apple’s model was fully implemented.  That is pretty unbelievable when you consider what many science and math students are currently paying.

All Hail Our Jobs-ian Overlords!

Obviously there are a few wrinkles that still need to be ironed out.  File-sharing could badly hurt the business model (but then again, the strategy seems to be working okay for iTunes), but does anyone want to bet against Apple being able to innovate a solution to that?  The academic community will have to buy into it, but they will likely be forced to sooner or later as the inevitable march of technology will run them over if not.  Personally, I believe that anytime a system that takes advantage of a disorganized, semi-vulnerable group such as students gets humbled it is a good thing.  I hope Apple textbooks forces a complete re-structuring of the business, and if the past is any predictor, I’d  caution not to bet against them.  If you own stock in McGraw-Hill or one of the few other textbook giants out there, I’d sell now before you get swallowed by the all-encompassing tidal wave of innovation and efficiency that is Apple.

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I got late to the Apple party, but am fully sold on their products for just the reasons you point out. I think they are going to have major disruptive impact on the text book industry. They “get” the end user experience.

11 years ago

Should be interesting to watch, but I’m sure they will make an impact. Anything that makes information more readily available to others is just fine in my opinion.

11 years ago

Textbook prices is a bubble I wouldn’t mind watching pop – once a class is locked into an author, expect to see new editions every year. I bet we start to see new editions every quarter soon, heh.

I do think Apple has a shot, but in the vein of Hulu and Netflix, they might just make the content creators richer as opposed to massively overhauling the system. For the sake of students, perhaps they can lower prices and still raise margins?

I think it would be awesome if Apple started doing this. I always hated lugging around 4-7 huge text books when I was in college. An iPad with textbooks on it would make college so much better (at least for me).

11 years ago

If they do this I would also invest in an iPad, which I also think other students would too. IPads are a luxury many consider too pricey but if they were the best platform for Apple textbooks many students would pull the trigger on one.

The textbooks can be what gets customers “in the door” and then they would be likely to spend on a lot of other Apple products if they weren’t already.

The sooner something like this happens the better. Preferably after I sell my books from this year and before I buy books for next year.

It will be very interesting to see what happens. I too am an Apple fan and think they have it right and know where to focus. I would love an Ipad with textbooks.

11 years ago

As a parent who is getting ready to foot the textbook bill (among other college costs) for our oldest child this fall, I am ready for Apple to roll this out right now! It is definitely an industry that needs technological reform.

It’s about time -I was initially hesitant because of the huge benefit to getting used textbooks, but it sounds like it would be affordable enough to be a huge interest.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
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