According to new information from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, tablet ownership has jumped from about 1 out of every 10 Americans to approximately 19 percent. The previous study was conducted around the middle of December, thus the massive increase in tablet ownership can likely be attributed to the holiday shopping season. While Apple’s iPad definitely helped boost that percentage, less expensive tablets like Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Barnes and Noble’s Nook Tablet were also partial contributors. Analysts have estimated that Apple sold approximately 13 million iPads over the holiday season while Amazon sold between four to five million Kindle Fire tablets. In addition to tablet ownership increasing rapidly, e-book reader ownership also spiked from 18 percent in December 2011 to 29 percent in January 2012.
With Apple making a big push into the education market with the iBooks 2 application and its partnerships with textbook publishers, it’s clear that the company is interested in expanding beyond selling the tablet to the mainstream consumer during 2012. According to a report from Global Equities Research, Apple has seen approximately 350,000 textbook downloads in the first three days of release. While the $15 price of a textbook on the iPad seems detrimental to publishers, production costs are cut by up to 80 percent and the publishers don’t have to deal with third parties in order to get the textbook into educational retailers. With over 5 million in textbook sales in the first three days, publishers are likely encouraged by the potential of more educators adopting the platform.
Apple’s efforts are also likely to be encouraged by the findings of a recent year-long study that discovered students were able to produce higher math scores by using an iPad application over a traditional textbook. According to a recent study conducted by PBS LearningMedia, over four out of five teachers believe that tablets enrich the classroom experience, yet only 22 percent of teachers reported that they have the right kind of technology in the classroom. The study also found that teachers working in affluent school districts are twice as likely to have access to tablets like the iPad.
If Apple has plans to become an influential force in the education system with iBooks 2, the company will have to work with school districts on providing iPad hardware for students either through the school system or encouraging parents to purchase the tablet. However, many teachers have already began an effort to obtain iPads and other tablets through sites like DonorsChoose.Org. According to a recent Forbes article, the dollar amount for requests of Apple products rose from $50,000 over the 2009-2010 school year to $800,000 during the following school year. While some of the requests were for Macbook laptops and the iPod Touch, the vast majority of Apple requests were related to the iPad. Officials at DonorsChoose.org said that the company plans to distribute 40 million dollars between 80,000 classroom project requests during 2012.
At the Menlo School in Atherton, California, the private school has been operating a pilot program with iPads for the last year as reported by Venturebeat. According to school officials, students in the eighth and tenth grade are given an iPad to carry use during the entire school year. While the expensive tablets are still owned by the school, the student is free to take the iPad home in order to complete homework. According to Menlo School director of technology Eric Spross, he stated “We choose iPads because they’re lightweight, portable, have a long battery life, and are self-service. They’re easier to support.”
However, the situation for public schools is vastly different from the Menlo School. Beyond monetary deficits for technology like tablets, public schools also have to deal with regulations from state and federal entities in regards to what technology the school is allowed to purchase. These same regulations dictate which textbooks have to be purchased, thus a textbook on the iPad platform may not be authorized.