Will iBooks Spell “The End” for Conventional Textbooks?

Though my college career may have ended several years ago, I vividly remember how my shoulders ached after long days of lugging textbooks all over campus.

But now that Apple has debuted the “textbooks” category in its iBooks app, it’s only a matter of time before book-induced muscle pain is a thing of the past. As Mashable reported, Apple users downloaded 350,000 books from partners McGraw-Hill, Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the first three days the category was available. And with book prices starting at $14.99 or less, it’s no surprise that cash-strapped students find this option appealing.

To me, the most intriguing aspect of the story is that another 90,000 users downloaded the company’s e-book authoring software, iBooks Author, which allows people to create their own textbooks that incorporate multimedia and 3D content. Although Publishers Weekly reports that the digital self-publishing market has seen steady growth for several years now, the college textbook niche has been mostly untapped.

I’m interested to see whether the increasing availability of digital textbooks will make more students spring for the iPad or other tablets. If I were back in college, I’d be tempted. And I’ll be watching to see whether publishers take this as a cue to employ innovative marketing strategies to set themselves apart from others in the marketplace.

What do you think? Will brick-and-mortar college bookstores – and the weighty tomes they sell – eventually go the way of computer punch cards and library card catalogs? Or will they continue to be staples of the college experience?

Mary Tindall is a staff writer at Linda Costa Communications Group. She shudders to think of how much she spent on textbooks while earning her journalism degree at the University of Central Florida.


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