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Apple digital textbooks: Can Apple reinvent another industry?

Apple digital textbooks promise to revolutionize education, just as the company revolutionized music. But is the model for Apple digital textbooks too costly to work?

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Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, discusses Apple digital textbooks, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012 in New York. IBooks 2 will be able to display books with videos and other interactive features.

Mark Lennihan/AP

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Apple on Thursday promised to reinvent the textbook and offer a new experience for students and teachers by way of an update to its iBooks app for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch.

The app update – which Apple is calling iBooks 2 and which is already released to the iOS App Store – will allow for textbooks to be sold through the popular app, which in the past sold novels, nonfiction and poetry, but not textbooks.

All textbooks sold through the free app, which is available only to Apple's mobile devices, will be priced at $14.99 or less _ a stark contrast to the high-priced paper books that fill college bookstores.

But the main allure might not be the price as much as the interactive features iBooks textbooks can offer.

Apple, which announced the iBooks update at a media event in New York at the Guggenheim Museum, said the iBooks textbook exceeds paper texts in terms of engagement, calling it a durable, quickly searchable book that offers easy highlighting and note-taking as well as interactive photo galleries, videos, and 3-D models and diagrams.

Digital textbooks can also offer immediate feedback with questionnaires at the end of chapters and automatically create flash cards of glossary terms for a student to study.

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