The flaws in Apple's plan to reinvent textbooks become apparent when you see Inkling's
One of the things the tech press missed last month when Apple (AAPL) summoned them -- satellite trucks and all -- to Manhattan's Guggenheim Museum for the unveiling of its new textbook authoring tools, is that Inkling got there first.
Launched two years ago by a former Apple educational marketing manager named Matt MacInnis, Inkling had already published more than 100 electronic textbooks for the iPad in the time it took Apple to make eight.
And on Tuesday, with a good deal less hoopla than Apple was able to generate, MacInnis unveiled a second generation e-book publishing tool, Inkling Habitat, that has even more interactive bells and whistles than Apple's iBook 2 -- guided tours, 3-D exhibits, quizzes, high deﬁnition video, etc. -- but is designed to streamline the workflow of industrial-strength textbook publishers. Among the features touted in its press release: (I quote)
Cross-platform with a click. Click "Publish", and Inkling Habitat pushes updates to every target platform at once, automatically customizing layouts for each device.
According to MacInnis, the eight titles Apple unveiled in January were painstakingly hand-crafted one worker at a time. Inkling's platform is made to accommodate the large teams of designers and editors -- often scattered across the globe -- that major publishers assign to a textbook project.
"To reinvent the book," he says, sounding very much like an Apple marketing manager. "We had to reinvent the printing press."
Whether Inkling can compete in the e-textbook market with Apple -- which makes the hardware, the software and the distribution system -- remains to be seen. But it's got a head start.
An impressive start, but how many of those 350,000 downloads were freebies?
Apple (AAPL) certainly got the attention of educators and the educational publishing community with the iPad textbook initiative it announced last Thursday. And no wonder. It's been a long time since anybody lavished that kind of attention and glitz on what has traditionally been an unglamorous -- albeit highly profitable -- corner of the book industry.
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