Apple has announced a new multimedia app called iBooks Author, allowing writers to create their own e-books, in a move to rival Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing.
At an event taking place in New York's Guggenheim Museum today (19th January), Apple's Phil Schiller said the free app was "the most advanced, most powerful, yet most fun e-book authoring tool ever created" designed to simplify the process of designing and selling digital textbooks through the iBookstore.
Authors can simply drag a Word file into a book creation space and the app will automatically design the book, creating appropriate sections and headers. Users can then drag and resize images within the text and add terms and definitions – and film can even be added to the ibook.
The app was announced at the same time as a new textbook experience for iPad, iBooks 2, a free app which includes a new ‘textbook' category.
So far publishers Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt have partnered with Apple to supply content for the textbook category, which the company said will eventually include "every subject, every grade level, for every student".
Apple will begin to sell high school textbooks for $14.99 or less, with Pearson making maths and science books for the iBookstore, with two already available and McGraw Hill making maths and science books with five available.
Students using the iBooks2 app will be able click on "review topic" and answer interactive questions, with pictures and immediate feedback for correct answers. Users will also be able to use their finger to highlight parts of texts.
Apple said DK publishing will also have learning tools for younger students available.
Agent Peter Cox responded to the announcement by saying he thinks iBooks Author is Apple's "landgrab".
"They [Apple] are trying to be the hardware right at the heart of the education market. They are doing that by giving away some fairly cool things: iBooks Author makes it easier than ever for an author to create an enhanced e-book. It looks very nice, it's free. Anyone can produce an enhanced e-book and make it look really good. They have taken away whatever technical hurdles there were. This will have wider implications for the burgeoning self-publishing market—not just in textbooks."
Cox also warned about the implications of Apple's pricing strategy, saying that selling school textbooks at "$14.99 or less" would mean "a new race to the bottom" starting with major implications for the textbook market.