Apple have announced an update to iBooks entitled ‘iBooks 2’ for the iPad.

As we originally suspected in our first and second articles, Apple, working in partnership with Pearson, McGraw Hill, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, has decided to enter the interactive textbook market creating titles which will take advantage of the following features:

Interactive graphics and built-in videos: New iBooks will be able to take full advantage of the multitouch interface and integrate a whole range of media and features such as embedded graphics, 3D models, multiple choice quizzes, annotation features and more. Other interactive features include a whole range of annotation options such as highlighting and additional notes.

Thumbnail navigation: This would allow users to navigate the contents page using a visible interface rather than words

Custom glossary: This feature is similar to the current iBook’s dictionary, allowing access to each textbook’s custom glossary by highlighting words.

Quizzes and review questions: One highly interactive feature that is sure to be of use to many students is the new quizzes and review feature. These quizzes are integrated into each book allowing students to test themselves in order to consolidate their knowledge.

Study cards:  This is one area which will really impact upon medical students and medical educators. The new study cards feature will allow users to create their own personalised flashcards based on content in the textbook. With the new iBooks 2 textbooks, anything that is highlighted will automatically generate a study card to be used later. Essentially, anything annotated becomes a card for reference and self-quizzing.

At the moment, there are only 8 textbooks available although this is sure to increase rapidly. Interestingly, these textbooks are large in terms of size and will easily take up at least 1GB each. The price of these books is capped at $14.99 or less which would significantly undercut many of the mainstream medical texts available today. This would obviously have ramifications for medical publishers all over the world.

In order to create these textbooks, Apple have also announced “iBooks Author”, an app with a WYSIWYG interface based on the iWork applications. Authors can customize their books with HTML5 or JavaScript, and the application provides live previews so that authors can see what the final result will be before publishing. This will enable medical educators to create textbooks personalized to their own courses. By integrating with iTunes U (more below) they will be able to create complete medical courses complete with all the information needed onto a device as big as a notebook (the iPad).

The final announcement from Apple is a complete update to iTunes U. iTunes U, previously a source of educational podcasts has been given its own app which students can now use to download full courses. This iPad app allows students to view and navigate through a course overview and outline using a simple interface whilst professors and educators can customize their course offerings. Lecturers can ‘push’ notes to students’ iPads and create assignments through the app while the lectures themselves can be streamed to iPads or downloaded later.

iTunes U promises to offer a complete range of interactive content including a range of media such as audio, videos, course notes and even other apps. This suggests that iTunes U could become a ‘hub’ for students to engage and learn interactively – something certain to catch the eye of advanced medical educators.

This is an exciting announcement for medical educators who can look to take advantage of the opportunities offered by this announcement and improve student engagement. What do you think? Let us know in the forum!

Apple Textbooks