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Rumor Mill: What if Apple enters the Textbook Market?

Before every Apple event the rumor mill is turning and usually it’s all about the next iPhone, iPod, iPad - hence the next device that will just work, boom. 

But this time it’s different as the rumors prior to the Apple event that’s planned to take place at the end of January in New York are pointing to a non device but service centered event. This means there are possibly iTunes, the App Store and iBookstore involved. 

A blog post by Clayton Morris took the rumors to the next level, as he suggests, the event will be about education, e.g. iTunesU and textbooks. This goes in line with a part in the much discussed Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson in which Jobs apparently spoke about his plan to disrupt the textbook industry in the same way he has disrupted music and movies with iTunes. 

You can read a collection of the rumors over here but what if Apple really announces a partnership with major textbook publishers in two weeks? What were the consequences? 

First of all, I don’t think that the announcement will be about free textbooks on the iPad. They have to cost something. But as Goodereader and Ars Technica suggest, there might be a digital publishing platform involved in the announcement which could enable publishers (textbook makers included) to bring their books into the iBookstore on a self serve basis. 

That is something that startups like Kno, Inkling and ScrollMotion are currently doing. If Apple enabled publishers to do the same thing, maybe even more through deeper iOS integration, the publishers could cut out the middlemen and sell directly to the end user.

It is also known that most of the big education publishers are or were on the list of SOPA supporters. A secure DRM driven model based on the experience Apple and music publishers had with iTunes could be a good reason for publishers to partner with Apple. 

For Apple, a partnership like this would make the iPad even more attractive to educational institutions. It could also keep other tablet makers and Amazon at distance as it would essentially enable Apple to sell the entire bundle, device + content, to schools and universities. 

And there are also rumors that Apple is planning to release competitive products to take on the Amazon Kindle price tag, e.g. a 7 inch version or keeping the iPad 2 as cheaper alternative to the iPad 3 after its launch, basically the same Apple did with the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4. 

If they turned the iPad 2 into the true digital backpack and pricing the device at $199 or lower with access to cheap e-textbooks and learning related applications it could be a pretty big deal.

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