Monday, January 23, 2012

Why All the Anti-Apple Sentiment Over iBooks Author?

Ed Borasky doesn't think much of Apple's new initiatives in education – This Is How You Disrupt Education, Not iBooks Author!:
My take is that it was 100% Apple marketing and zero “disrupting education.” It was all about selling overpriced tablets to schools that are struggling to keep teachers on the payroll. It was all about forcing authors to buy new Macintosh machines or upgrading existing ones to MacOS X “Lion”. And it was about a restrictive EULA for authors.
Of course Apple is in the business of selling their products, but if you've experimented with or even watched the videos demoing the new iBooks or iBooks Author, it's hard not to think that these will impact what we do as educators. To cynically dismiss iBooks2, and iBooks Author as "100% Apple marketing" is missing the mark and way too hyperbolic.
As for the restrictive EULA (End User License Agreement), it has gotten a lot of press, but much of it overhyped. If you create an ibooks e-book (that will only work on the iPad) and you want to sell it, you have to sell through Apple – just like you would an iOS app. If you want to give it away for free, there are no restrictions. As for fears that the the EULA gives Apple ownership of your content, that's just reading way too much into the terms and extrapolating them to the most draconian outcome. I've read the EULA and I don't see it. Your content is yours; you can do whatever you want with it. If you choose to produce a rich, interactive multimedia e-book using iBooks Author you can either give it away or sell it through Apple. Want to sell it for the Amazon Kindle, use another tool to format the book and publish to Amazon. How's that different from an app developer? Sure, I'd like to see Apple put this all to rest by revising the EULA, but even as is, people are reading way too much into it.
He points to a couple alternatives that he feels are truly disruptive – (1) free textbooks:
Textbooks should be free! That’s one way to disrupt education. And provides Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) textbooks for free. These are textbooks developed by educators, not marketers. They work on iPads, Kindles, PDF readers, or you can read them on line in your browser. There are authoring tools on the web site as well. The current CK-12 FlexBooks Library lists 38 mathematics textbooks, 34 in science and 20 in other subjects. Some have both student and teacher editions.
and (2) free software:
And education software should be free! The most comprehensive collection of free educational software I’ve found is openSUSE Linux for Education – openSUSE:Education-Li-f-e. This is a LiveDVD that will boot on most PC-based hardware with at least 1 GB of RAM.. You don’t even need a hard drive – since it’s a Live DVD, Li-f-e doesn’t touch the hard drive unless you explictly direct it to do so. If you want, you can copy the DVD to a USB drive and boot from that.
and he concludes …
Given that these free tools exist, and have been around since well before the iPad, I don’t see how Apple marketing can claim to be disrupting education. There’s real disruption if you know where to look.
Where do I start? Free is great, free books, free software, but that doesn't necessarily mean free is best. If these tools (free books and open source software) are truly disrupting education, where the data. Where's the proof? Open source software has been around forever – I teach Linux, so I interact with open source every day, but my colleagues in education? No so much. Maybe MoodleRooms has made a tiny dent in the Blackboard empire, but teaching your classes using a Live Linux distribution – as Borasky suggests – it just not happening.
The books available through look promising, but a few questions:
  1. where's the multimedia, the interaction – since these are web-based, this would be a great opportunity to include content and resources to enrich the e-books, but instead these appear to be no different than print books except for the fact that they're free, online, and include few links to external resources,
  2. the textbooks can be downloaded as PDFs, as ePub files for iPads and other readers, or purchased (for $0.00) from Amazon's Kindle store,
    • Why not offer as a .mobi file to download directly to the Kindle?
    • Why is it OK to distribute through Amazon, but not Apple? Is Amazon less evil?
    • Do kids need Amazon accounts, and credit cards to access these materials?
  3. The CK12 project seems to have been around since 2007. If as Borasky claims, "there's real disruption if you know where to look", how many school districts, teachers, students, etc are using CK12 textbooks?
So we've had free – books and software – but not disruption. That doesn't mean that iBooks, iPads, and iBooks Author are the answer, but let's at least give it a shot.

1 comment:

jim miller said...

Before revolutionizing, its about democratizing education. And Apple I'm afraid is more about monopolizing. So in that sense, I think "free" ibook is inherently flawed in concept. As far as CK12 is concerned, the reason behind their genesis is passion not business like iBooks. Plus CK12 has been involved in some brilliant projects like the Utah Open Book project, LPS and the like and there has been verifiable success in most of them. But the real point is that unless you are able to make your technology accessible to everyone on every platform, you are not in it for revolution or even evolution of the way education is delivered and consumed.


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