No, Apple is not trying to ‘destroy’ the textbook industry — it’s trying to sell more iPads

apple-invitation-NYCOn January 19, Apple will unveil something education-related at an event in New York City. Nobody knows for sure what Cupertino has up its sleeve, of course, but this morning’s tech newswire has a theory (aka “rumor”) — and some reasons why that theory is completely false. Here’s the deal:

From the pro-theory side, we have Chris Foresman from Ars Technica, who reports via anonymous sources, and some thorough independent digging, that Apple will unveil the “GarageBand for e-books,” specifically e-textbooks. The alleged app will make it as easy to create an interactive digital textbook “as creating a song in GarageBand.” This, says Foresman in his headline, has the ability to “digitally destroy” the textbook industry.

Foresman cites Matt MacInnis, CEO of digital textbook company Inkling, which has more than 100 textbooks available for the iPad. MacInnis confirms the “GarageBand for e-books” theory, but adds that, “practically speaking, Apple does not want to get into the content publishing business.” That is to say, Apple does not want to become Amazon, and go after textbook publishers by offering a cheaper product than they can possibly deliver. Instead, Apple wants to create the tools for publishers to be able to create great interactive textbooks, which will presumably be available only on Apple’s products. It’s the iTunes/iPod strategy all over again.

What it is not, however, is a strategy to “digitally destroy” the textbook publishing industry. That bit — that Apple wants to wreak havoc on the textbook publishers — is based entirely on a line from Walter Isaacson’s biography of the late Steve Jobs, in which Jobs said he believed the textbook industry is “ripe for digital destruction.”

Even if that’s what Jobs believed, the evidence doesn’t support the theory that this is what Apple plans to do. In other words, either Foresman or one of his editors is trying to pull a fast one on readers by slapping a sensationalist headline on a story that delivers nothing close to what it claims.

This point — that Ars got it wrong, in this case — is echoed by Fortune’s Philip Elmer-Dewitt, who also interviewed MacInnis about Apple’s Jan. 19 plans. MacInnis here confirms that “Apple is not trying to kill the incumbents.” It simply wants to make it easier to create quality content that can be served up on its iPad, thus making the iPad a must-have tool in the classroom, which would further boost its sales. Assuming the “GarageBand for e-books” app is real, it also wants to sell that to textbook publishers, thus raking in even more cash.

The theory that Apple is working with, not against, the textbook industry is further corroborated by the Wall Street Journal, which reports that Apple is partnering with publisher McGraw-Hill, which will be present at its upcoming NYC event.

Many students may believe that the textbook industry needs to be destroyed. With current tuition costs somewhere past Neptune, being hit with a $1,000 textbook bill every semester is a painful low-blow. So if Apple can make it possible to spend $500 once, on an iPad, and only a fraction of the cost on textbooks — textbooks made for a multimedia age — every couple of months, that would likely be a welcome change for students and parents.

In the end, nobody’s sure what Apple will release. And, like always, we’re just going to have to wait to find out. Once that happens, then we can start to debate the consequences of the company’s next big thing.


Adventurous and electric, Porsche’s second electric car will fill a new niche

Porsche surprised us at the Geneva Auto Show with an electric station wagon named Mission E Cross Turismo. Though it's a concept car, it could become a production model after the Mission E sedan arrives in showrooms.
Emerging Tech

When tech goes wrong: Banksy’s shredder was meant to totally destroy his artwork

Banksy's recent auction stunt was meant to totally destroy one of his most famous pieces of work, but a fault with the shredder has left the buyer with something almost certainly worth far more than the $1 million she bid for it.

Terrifying clowns try to kill you in this teaser for ‘PUBG’ Halloween event

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds seems to be getting a frightening Halloween event. In a brief teaser, we get a glimpse of two masked assailants, creepy nurses, and an utterly terrifying clown that looks something like Pennywise.
Emerging Tech

Boston Dynamics is trying to make fetch happen with its new working robot dog

Boston Dynamics wants to see Spot in the workplace, but not as part of take-your-dog-to-work days. Quite the opposite, in fact, as the technology company believes its extraordinary robo-dog is now ready to start work.

Apple sends out invites for October hardware event, new iPad Pro expected

The new iPhone XS, iPhone XR, and Apple Watch aren't the last devices we'll see from Apple in 2018. There are plenty of rumors about a new iPad coming this year too, and it may share some design similarities with the new phones.

Google Maps brings its real-time journey-tracking feature to iPhone

It's been available on Android for a while now, and now Google Maps has brought its real-time journey-tracking feature to iOS. It lets you choose who to share a journey with, and tracking ends automatically when you arrive.

Camera shootout! Testing the latest Pixel, iPhone, and Galaxy Note in real life

Which takes the best photos, the Pixel 3 XL, iPhone XS Max, Galaxy Note 9, or Pixel 2 XL? We put the cameras on all these top-notch phones through their paces to see which performs best in the real world, from low light to portrait mode…

A strap for everyone: The best Apple Watch bands you can buy right now

If you have an Apple Watch, you know how easy it is to take off the strap it came with, so why not buy yourself another one? Here we've gathered the best Apple Watch bands we've seen so far and there's something for everyone.

Need a quick battery boost? Try one of our favorite portable chargers

Battery life still tops the polls when it comes to smartphone concerns. If it’s bugging you, then maybe it’s time to snag yourself a portable charger. Here are our picks of the best portable chargers.

Which new iPhone is the best? iPhone XS vs. iPhone XS Max vs. iPhone XR

Apple has three new iPhone models to choose from this year, making the choice a little harder than usual. What's the difference between the iPhone XS, the iPhone XS Max, and the iPhone XR, and which is best?

Need a do-over? Here's how to factory reset an iPhone, from XS on down

Resetting an iPhone can alleviate all sorts of software woes, and wipe away personal data should you sell your device or give it to someone else. Here's how to factory reset an iPhone from within iOS or iTunes.

Apple’s latest feature ensures MacOS apps are safer than ever

MacOS is mythically known for being more immune to viruses than Windows, but that doesn't mean there isn't room to make it safer. Apple is using an app notarization feature to protect users from downloading malicious apps.

Will Apple introduce a new MacBook at its Oct. 30 event? Here's everything we know

Whether it's called the MacBook Air or just the MacBook, Apple is highly rumored to introduce a new, affordable laptop in 2018. We discuss reports about upgrading displays, processors, sign-in features, and more.

Apple CEO demands Bloomberg retract its Chinese surveillance story

Apple CEO Tim Cook is calling on Bloomberg to retract a story alleging that Apple had purchased compromised servers that allowed the Chinese government to spy on Apple. Apple's investigation found no truth to the story.