Former Apple employee’s Inkling adapts bestselling college textbooks for Apple’s revolutionary iPad

Apple Online Store“Maybe the iPad will move digital college textbooks out of theory and into practice,” Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg reports for The Wall Street Journal. “Although electronic book sales have exploded, digital college textbooks have been slow to get off the ground, in part because of high prices and hardware concerns. Now, a former Apple Inc. employee, Matt Mac Innis, is trying to shake up the market with a new approach that taps into the iPad’s strengths.”

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“His tech start-up, Inkling, is introducing its first four full-length interactive college textbooks using its software platform, which is designed specifically for Apple’s iPad—a marked departure from e-textbooks that are almost entirely just text that has been digitized. Inkling is one of a number of companies helping textbook publishers rethink their titles for the iPad, eager to exploit its color, video, and touch-screen capabilities,” Trachtenberg reports. “The four digital titles— McGraw-Hill Cos. best sellers in biology, economics, marketing, psychology—are expected to become available via the iTunes App Store beginning Friday. Prices will start at $2.99 per chapter and $69.99 for entire books, for a limited time. Thereafter, chapters will be $3.99 and books will start at $84.99.”

“Inkling has struck deals with other large publishers, including John Wiley & Sons Inc. and Cengage Learning, to launch future titles,” Trachtenberg reports. “It’s unclear whether students and their parents will want to fork out $499 to buy an iPad on top of other college expenses.”

MacDailyNews Take: Oh, they will; don’t worry about that.

Trachtenberg continues, “Vineet Madan, head of McGraw-Hill’s Learning Ecosystems group, said Mr. MacInnis’s biggest challenge will be persuading colleges and universities to embrace the iPad. But he says he’s already seeing some movement in that direction. Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pa., for example, is giving iPads to 1,800 students this fall.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “brandon” for the heads up.]


  1. @CC:

    While I agree with that they are still too high, it still beats books going over $100. Give it time. As more colleges and universities standardize to the iPad, you will see more competition. Prices should come down by then.

    Just an example. I took a grad level math class. Book was about a half inch thick. Cost me $125 for that POS that was only good for one semester.

  2. They miss the point. Why would authors go through a publishing house for a slim slice of the pie when they can publish directly through the App Store and get a 70% cut? The open-source best of class discussion on a topic no longer has to be bundled as a collection of chapters from a single source. It’s more like a loose-leaf binder, with topics added one at a time from any source that does the job. The entire textbook creation and distribution ecosystem is dead. What appears to be forward motion is just a monolith, stuck at the bottom, toppling at the top.

    The next step is the emergence of the course of study through the App Store that obviates the need for seats in a room, with a talking head at the front. What then?

  3. I own 5 Macs at my office. All but one are over 5 years old. My wife is using a 6 year old Toshiba (she had to have windows for a previous job and she bought it just before the Intel Macs came out) Times are tough, I need to buy a couple of new Mac’s but can’t afford it. Yet I still bought an iPad for each of my two kids in college. They are a little frustrated that they can’t get more of their texts on the iPad. I told them to have a little patience. It is not going to be long before the iPad is a necessity not a luxury for college students.

  4. The whole college textbooks thing is a racket between publishers, college professors and colleges. It’s all about behind the scene deals of how many books, whether or not updated, and how much you can actually get the college to buy, and buy back used. Throw in lots of kickback for professors, publishers along the way.

  5. The high cost is the primary reason why so many students sell their textbooks to their younger colleagues (and why so many look for second-hand books). It is also the reason why the authors of these expensive textbooks keep coming out with newer editions faster than any other book category. The class requires the most recent edition, even though almost nothing changed between editions.

    As long as the digital price is reasonably cheaper than the physical one, these will become popular.

  6. “…chapters will be $3.99 and books will start at $84.99.” Are you effing kidding me? For digital books? How many *copies* will be sold every semester? How often will they be updated? It’s a license to print money! Somebody is getting rich rich rich… I’m all about fair compensation for hard work and ingenuity – However, this is insane… am I the only person that see’s a problem with this?

  7. We just spent $600 for my HS son’s books for the year. If we could save, say, half, by going digital, that nearly pays for the iPad in one year’s savings. Not to mention saving his back from ~50 pounds of books. So I’d say yes, we’d go for that!

  8. The problem is you can’t resell these digital books used, as you can regular textbooks. The prices of digital versions should be comparable to used book prices since you’ll never get any of that back.

  9. “It’s unclear whether students and their parents will want to fork out $499 to buy an iPad on top of other college expenses.”

    There are some very valid arguments why traditional textbooks have a advantage over iPad electronic ones. Resale value, durability, loaning to others, easy replacement, highlighting ability, etc.

    If I was a rich boy at college and didn’t give a darn about loaning or reselling my textbooks, I would go electronic.

    But on a laptop so I get the advantage of better processing power, a built in keyboard, a built in monitor stand, the option to run other course needed software etc., without needing to walk back to my dorm all the time to get the laptop.

    Well I guess if I was really rich I would have some slob go get my laptop for me and hold the iPad for me in class so my arms wouldn’t get tired. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

  10. “The problem is you can’t resell these digital books used, as you can regular textbooks. The prices of digital versions should be comparable to used book prices since you’ll never get any of that back.”

    And the textbook publishers would respond:

    “You can afford to buy a $500-$800 iPad in addition to your $2,000-$3000 MacBook Pro needed to keep it updated and you want us to take a loss?”

    Any poor college student worth his salt buys the PDFed copies of the original textbooks from the local computer nerd for a few boxes of DVD-R’s ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

  11. This article, and most of the comments above are hopelessly short-sighted, if not downright idiotic.

    Over time, I believe the model for school textbooks will change. If you think of it, the content in many texts falls rapidly out of date. Making the transition to electronic media on the iPad makes complete sense. One need only look at the new iPad commercial to understand why. Since the content of texts changes, having a dead tree edition makes little sense. And selling books, whether it is in printed or electronic form makes no sense whatsoever.

    What matters is the content. Since it is always in transition, why sell it? Instead, students can and should subscribe to the courseware, in effect renting the content. It would still be profitable for the publishers to do this, especially because with an electronic edition, the costs of paper, ink, pre-press, printing, inventory and physical distribution would be completely eliminated.

    As for the idiotic comment by the WSJ reporter, “It’s unclear whether students and their parents will want to fork out $499 to buy an iPad on top of other college expenses.” I want to grab a baseball bat and knock some sense into this frigtard. First, students will need computers anyway, and the iPad is completely viable for this. Second, in many cases, schools and colleges will help defer the cost of purchasing an iPad. Third, an iPad is cheaper than many Macs or PCs used by students today.

    We are on the cusp of a dramatic change, one in which society will embrace the iPad. When I see comments like those above, and the flat-earth viewpoint of the Wall Street Journal, I cringe. The light coming from the tunnel in which you live is the express train of change that is about to run you over. It’s a pretty good train. You better get on it.

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