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The pros and cons of the iBooks 2.0 textbook format – Baldur Bjarnason

February 2, 2012

The pros and cons of the iBooks 2.0 textbook format – Baldur Bjarnason.

Bjarnason has 3 or 4 blog posts about iBooks 2.0 which essentially boils down to:

  • I don’t like it because I want everything to be standards compliant
  • I don’t understand why they did it because I can’t see any advantages
  • Therefore it was stupid

Mkay.  I see a lot of that in tech blogs. Sometimes the move being decried really is just stupid. Sometimes we have significant blinders on and the fact that WE can’t discern the competitive advantage of some move doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

All Baldur can see are cons. And the cons are huge in his eyes…with little or no way to mitigate. The strawman pros he provides are easily knocked down or disregarded.

In any case, Apple doesn’t want a time limited exclusivity…as indicated by the EULA…they want textbooks to be a competitive advantage for the Apple in the education market permanently. Fallbacks to “lesser devices” or adhering to a common standard everyone can implement are not things that Apple wants.

And there’s no real advantage for Apple to do ePub 3 if they are forever extending it beyond the approved standard anyway. It’s not as if Apple is done with evolving the iBooks format so no newly issued iBook will ever display correctly in a standard ePub3 reader since it will be using non-standard extensions.  Old books that used some feature that wasn’t approved or was modified will be broken as well.

What’s really funny was his analogy about Google making an incompatible fork of HTML5 in Chrome. Because essentially they did by pushing WebM/VP8 when everyone else was pretty much going down the H.264 path.

Of course, that’s a good point for him given the rather anemic uptake of WebM.  On the other hand Apple has momentum, iBooks is very cool and most the folks that are real WebM fans run linux. No one else really cares about which codec they use.

Interactive textbooks for $14.99 is a killer feature.  One Apple invested quite a bit in enabling and one they aren’t likely to willingly share. Especially not with the Kindle Fire and future Amazon tablets in the works.

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