Apple’s special, invitation-only event is happening later this week – Jan. 19, to be exact – in New York, but we still aren’t quite sure what the event will cover. New rumors suggest it could be a pretty big shift in the world of e-book publishing.
The latest report says Apple is planning to release a “GarageBand for e-books,” referencing the iPhone and iPad maker’s popular music recording and editing software. The report comes from Ars Technica, which cites unnamed sources and spoke with industry experts to get some information on the rumored tool. Ars says Apple plans to release an app that will allow for the quick and easy creation of e-books, as well as their distribution across Apple’s iOS devices, the iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone.
The publishing app would make manuscripts compatible with ePub 3 standards, which are the guidelines that govern how e-books are made so that they’re compatible across multiple platforms. Currently, Apple’s iBooks app conforms to ePub 2 standards, but the report says that Apple will be announcing that iBooks will be moving to the new standard along with its new app.
Apple’s not looking to get into the content publishing business, the report says. Just like with music and movies, Apple doesn’t have the infrastructure or the desire to actually make things. Instead, it’s leveraging its hardware, already in the hands of millions and in use in schools and universities, to get content in front of viewers. Apple also has a history of making tools that simplify the production of content on the user side – again with the GarageBand metaphor – and that’s where this new e-publishing app would come in.
Industry experts also think Apple’s new app will change the way iPad and iPhone owners use textbooks, making the learning process more involved and more social. Imagine being able to annotate a digital copy of a textbook (without destroying it), and sharing those annotations and lessons with other users in a class or a lecture. Imagine being a professor who can go through a textbook and play up or play down the significance of various sections in the book. A textbook app or an e-publishing app for the iPad can make those kinds of functions easy, and that seems to be where many people think Apple is heading.
From Steve Jobs’ biography, we know Apple was eyeing taking on the publishing industry the same way it did movies and music. Just how Apple’s announcement on Thursday might impact the industry remains to be seen, but it’s possible we could be seeing another big shakeup coming out of Cupertino.