Apple launches iBooks 2, adding interactive textbooks

Apple promised a big announcement when it revealed earlier this month it would hold a press event today that would focus on education. Today the company announced that it is launching iBooks 2, a new version of Apple's eBook store exclusively for the iPad. This new version will have added support for purchasing interactive textbooks at prices of $14.99 or less.

According to Apple's press release:

iBooks textbooks offer iPad users gorgeous, fullscreen textbooks with interactive animations, diagrams, photos, videos, unrivaled navigation and much more. iBooks textbooks can be kept up to date, don't weigh down a backpack and never have to be returned.

Textbook publishers such as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill and Pearson will be offering their books via iBooks 2. In addition, anyone will be able to publish their own textbook, or indeed any kind of book, via iBooks 2 with the new iBooks Author software for the Mac App Store. The press release states:

Authors and publishers of any size can start creating with Apple-designed templates that feature a wide variety of page layouts. iBooks Author lets you add your own text and images by simply dragging and dropping, and with the Multi-Touch widgets you can easily add interactive photo galleries, movies, Keynote presentations and 3D objects.

There's no word if Apple plans to release the iBooks Author tool for Windows users.

In a separate press release, Apple announced the launch of the iTunes U app for all iOS devices. The new app will allow teachers to offer full courses, including lectures, quizzes and more, to all iOS users. The press release states:

The iTunes U app gives iOS users access to the world’s largest catalog of free educational content from top universities including Cambridge, Duke, Harvard, Oxford and Stanford, and starting today any K-12 school district can offer full courses through the iTunes U app.

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