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Apple’s new textbook offering sees 350,000 downloads in three days, report says

by Phil Hornshaw

It appears that Apple’s new digital textbook service is off to a flying start, with one research firm estimating that 350,000 textbooks have been downloaded after only three days since Apple announced iBooks 2.

AllThingsD has the story, citing numbers from Global Equities Research. The firm states that in addition to the textbooks users have downloaded, 90,000 users have also downloaded Apple’s e-book authoring software, iBooks Author. Global Equities Research’s numbers come from its proprietary e-book tracking system, which monitors e-book sales on Apple’s devices (although the company wouldn’t give many more details than that).

Those are some pretty impressive numbers, given that Apple only announced the new iBooks textbook initiative on Thursday in New York. At that event, Apple detailed its plans to disrupt the way educational materials like textbooks are sold, offering digital versions that include video, audio and interactive content, for vastly less than print books are sold for now – $15 or less. At those prices, and given the fact that college students routinely spend hundreds on a semester’s worth of textbooks, it’s no wonder iBooks 2’s textbook portion would be a hit.

According to AllThingsD’s story, Apple’s push into publishing may actually be something that helps publishers rather than hurts them. The high prices of textbooks, which often settle above $50 each and sometimes rise as high as $100 or more, comes from a lot of factors. Global Equities estimates that 33 to 35 percent of that price is supply chain markup; a lot more of it comes from the cost of production. Textbooks sold on iBooks, on the other hand, cost as much as 80 percent less to produce than print versions. This allows Apple to undercut the textbook stores and lets publishers offer more in their textbooks for less money. So far, it seems everybody wins (except those brick-and-mortar textbook sellers, that is).

Apple said during its announcement that some 1.5 million iPads are already in use in schools all over the U.S. Getting iPads into the hands of students seems to be one of the things that could potentially hold back the power of iBooks’ textbook push, but if Global Equities’ numbers are accurate, it seems that the proliferation of the iPad already might have that issue on its way to being solved. With more money to be saved on textbooks, the iPad is likely well on its way to being a top educational tool come next fall.