Taking Back IT

Jan 20 2012   5:22PM GMT

iBooks textbooks for iPad: A load off kids’ backs and onto IT’s

Alex Barrett Alex Barrett Profile: Alex Barrett

As a mother, news of Apple’s iBooks textbooks for iPad is a weight off my shoulders — and my kid’s.

My son is in middle school, and while a lot has changed since I was in eighth grade, one thing I can relate to is his backpack. Every morning, the poor kid walks to school with an extra-large L.L. Bean backpack slung over his shoulder, filled to the brim with textbooks, folders, lunch and gym clothes that combined must weigh a good 25 pounds. Textbooks must make up at least half of that. School administrators encourage kids to leave unneeded textbooks in their lockers, but with only five minutes between classes, that never happens. At night, my son lugs all his textbooks home again to do his homework.

Meanwhile, he complains about a sore neck and shoulders, and the nurse sends home a note every year about early signs of scoliosis. Not a good scene.

Enter iBooks textbooks for iPad, a new Apple initiative announced yesterday. At 1.35 pounds, the iPad is one of the heavier tablets on the market, but compared to a backpack full of hardcover books, it’s a veritable feather. I hope tablet-based textbooks take off, if for no other reason than our childrens’ health.

For years, Apple has tried to corner the education market, flooding schools with glowing iMacs and offering parents steep discounts on desktops and laptops. The hope was that students raised on a diet of Apple products would grow up in to Apple-using adults. I, for one, was never tempted, because the Mac’s ease-of-use argument was never compelling enough to make up for the cost differential with a regular Windows PC.

The iPad value proposition is different. It has ease of use as well as ease of portability. With price points in the hundreds of dollars, not thousands, tablets could emerge as a relatively affordable educational tool that parents can feel good about giving their kids.

What iBooks textbooks for iPad mean for IT

As an enterprise IT journalist, the prospect of teenagers with iPads raises a larger question: that of an emerging workforce that is more familiar with tablets and touchscreens than they are with desktops and mice; better versed in iOS than in Windows; more comfortable texting than sending an email. In a few short years, the target audience for iBooks textbooks for iPad will start entering the workforce, and it makes you wonder: How will those young adults fit into the traditional workplace, dominated by Windows PCs?

I already hear the beginnings of this shift at home. The other day my son looked over at me typing away on a Word document and asked, “Mom, why does your company still use Microsoft Office?” When I asked him what he meant and what we should be using, he suggested Google Docs.

“It’s so much more convenient for sharing,” he said. I reluctantly had to admit that attaching and emailing documents around in Exchange and using the Track Changes feature doesn’t really constitute “convenient.”

Speaking of Exchange, I can’t help but notice that teenagers don’t get email anymore (except from their moms). They text, they Facebook, they chat, but they don’t email. (Come to think of it, with their headphones on, they don’t really talk anymore, either.)

These changes in communication styles will also become an issue when the next generation enters the workforce. And in 2020, when my son graduates from college, it will be up to the IT managers at his first job to answer his “why does the company still use Microsoft?” question.

4  Comments on this Post

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  • philpl1jb
    Son @ middle school with thinkpads backpack heavier than son @ middle school without
    54,090 pointsBadges:
  • Kstagg
    Alex - Doesn't change the fact that the pricing still comes into question. Engadget downloaded one elementary geometry iBook and it was 3GB! Of course, if you have a 16GB iPad - well, that's nearly 20% of your hard drive right there. Surely you won't settle on a 16GB iPad, right? You'll want a 32GB one, correct? Well, if you already HAVE a 16GB iPad, but can't afford a 32GB iPad right now, just go right out and get another 16GB iPad. That is, if you truly loved your kid. I mean - this wouldn't be as much of a big deal if they gave us the opportunity to expand the memory on each iPad. But well - not going there. So do you think the iPad owners are only going to be putting books on them? What about all the other multimedia on them? Oh wait, no room.
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  • Kstagg
    If only each book didn't take up 3GB of space. Do the math for a 16GB iPad.
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  • Alex Barrett
    @kstagg, no doubt there are tons of challenges to be resolved -- cost, durability, space, licensing, responsible usage, etc etc etc -- but in general I think that the concept is positive and that the writing is on the wall for tablet-based textbooks. @Philipl1jb How much does the thinkpad weigh? Are his textbooks all on there?
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