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In a hyped press conference today, Apple announced that the company is getting into the e-textbook game.

Here are the highlights:

-iPad owners will now be able to buy e-textbooks from the big three textbook publishers, Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The price for high school textbooks will be $14.99. The e-textbooks can include interactive elements and multimedia, such as 3D graphics, flash cards and photo galleries.

-The company also announced enhancements to iTunes U, which will allow professors and now K-12 teachers to create online courses which can be integrated with e-textbooks.

-Apple also will allow users to create their own interactive e-textbooks and self publish them.

So what’s the reaction?

Mind/Shift points out the iTunes U changes come close to creating an online learning management system for all teachers.

…it’s worth noting here that since the content on iTunes U has mostly been free and open, that there is no process here for submitting assignments or grades. And much like the new iTextbooks, what’s missing here is a “social” component. The app does allow instructors to upload full course packages, and starting today K-12 teachers will also be able to post their materials to the iTunes U ecosystem.

Education Week pointed out that the announcement of the iTunes U changes left many questions unanswered.

Will future iterations of the e-textbooks incorporate the social interaction and real-time classroom management tools seen in other learning management software? How much professional training will be required for teachers to be able to create their own e-textbooks, or will most authorship come from publishers and existing mobile app developers? Does this change the role of teachers at all, or will they simply be lecturing in front of students holding iPads?

While Apple’s main e-book competitor Amazon has been in the e-textbook market, The New York Times’ Bits blog pointed out that Apple may have an advantage in this field.

Apple has a deep and longstanding connection with the education market that could serve it well as it enters the textbook business. Even as its Macintosh computers were shunned by big purchasers of technology inside corporations in decades past, Apple found success selling them to K-12 schools and colleges.

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