The Hidden Cost of Apple’s New Textbooks*

Adel Gabot

I admire Apple‘s efforts at improving education. God knows its about time to dispense with the old textbook paradigm and lugging the heavy, increasingly obsolete books around in a backpack from class to class. Apple’s recent launch of iBooks 2 and iBooks Author is a great step towards this, but despite the drive to bring down costs, there is a small, but significant hidden penalty to all this, I think.

The books are damn big!

They’re large and take up a lot of iPad/iPhone space. DK’s Dinosaurs & Prehistoric Life tome is already almost half a gig large. But that’s nothing. The Pearson Biology textbook is a whopping 2.7 gig in size! I know they’re relatively inexpensive, and we’re all thankful that they all top out at $14.99. But imagine loading up four or five of these “big” textbooks on your iPad – that would be, what, already 10-12GB or more?

Considering that the vast majority of cash-strapped students only have 16GB iPads, that would mean giving up a lot of the apps they currently have to make room for the textbooks. I know, we all have priorities, but this problem is certainly a big thorn in their side.

To give up what makes the iPad unique and enjoyable in favor of what’s “needed” sort of defeats the purpose of the device. Sure, most apps are only a few megabytes in size, but how about the larger, more complicated ones, like GarageBand?

I’m not knocking Apple and it’s efforts to bring education into the 21st century. Far from it. Just wanted foks to stop and take a good look at what’s really here in front of us now, and think about it. There’s a fair distance to go, really, before we can safely say that we’ve done all we can to improve the education situation. We can bring the sizes of the textbooks down to more manageable levels, or, failing that, maybe bring down the costs of iPads and other technologies so students can afford to get the higher capacities. Something like that.

But it’s good to have these new, revolutionary breakthroughs in the field. Where would we be without these little feats? We just have to take care that we don’t get carried away by our successes and pat ourselves on the back.


Reprinted from

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