21 January 2012

Do you have an iBooks textbook policy at your school?

Apple's new foray into the world of textbooks includes iBook Author, software that enables anyone to create a nice-looking iBook without too much trouble. This will likely mean that lots of faculty who have refrained from doing so in the past may start to create their own textbooks. And some people will no doubt be encouraged by their ability to sell these in Apple's on-line store. (Right now if you sell them at all, you must sell them through Apple's store.) Small prices + large volume = welcome income, especially for the underpaid teaching profession.

This raises some interesting questions for educational institutions, which have long dealt with instructors requiring students to buy textbooks they'd written, but almost always published through traditional presses. Sure, the faculty member would be earning money in the form of royalties, but the presence of the press as middleman provided the institution with the fig leaf (at least) of a review process. Apple's new software and store offer a way to cut out this middleman (even if the presses have signed on to Apple's efforts already).

So what's an educational institution to do? Is your institution ready for the first calls and emails from parents complaining that the professor is making the class buy the over-priced iTextbook they wrote and put up in the on-line store?

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