After seeing Apple's earnings yesterday of over $13 billion for the last quarter of 2011, I'm even more troubled when I think of last week's announcement of iBooks 2 and the company's move into distributing text books.
For years I've been a proponent of the idea of using ebooks for school texts to reduce costs and make it easy for kids to keep information close at hand without lugging huge books around all day.
The first thing that bothered me about the iBooks announcement was the idea of a proprietary format for school books. If we are to use tax dollars to buy texts, I'd much rather see them distributed in an open format like Epub3. Using iBooks locks us in to Apple as a vendor just as using MS Office, locks us in to paying Microsoft. iBooks means buying Apple iPads for every student and then buying books through Apple's store.
With Apple's cash horde now just shy of $100 billion I'd like to make a modest proposal. If Apple wants schools to use iBooks and iPads they should give every public school student in America a free iPad. If the company set aside just $20 billion and we assume its cost for a $500 iPad is about $350 or less that would cover about 55 million tablets. Data from the 2010 census indicates that there were about 51 million students aged 5-18 enrolled in the US. This would be a great time for Apple to get into philanthropy in a big way. Free iPads and lower cost books from the publishers (since they don't have to actually print and ship books anymore) and we will indeed be further ahead.
Yes it will cost Apple a bundle of cash up front, but they would also be developing a huge population of future customers. On the other hand we could just go with open standards and forget about iBooks.
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