Apple has been working with McGraw-Hill and potentially other publishers on a digital interactive textbook initiative that it is expected to launch at its special event on Thursday, according to a new report. Citing a person familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reports that McGraw-Hill has been working with Apple on the announcement since June, and may have been joined in participation by Pearson and Houghton Mifflin. Cengage Learning, a leader in higher-education textbooks, has partnered with Apple in the past and will also be attending the event. “Apple today clearly has a strong position in hardware, and companies like Cengage Learning have a very strong position on the content side,” said Bill Rieders, Cengage executive vice president of global strategy and business development. “To the extent there’s a combination there, that could be exciting.”
In a separate report, Ars Technica also suggests that Apple is working on digital textbooks, but instead suggests that Apple will announce support for the more robust ePub 3 standard in iBooks moving forward, as well as a new tool for creating ePub 3- compliant e-books. Referring to the tool as “GarageBand for e-books”, the report cites former Apple education employee and current CEO of digital textbook house Inkling Matt MacInnis as expecting such a tool. “That’s what we believe you’re about to see,” MacInnis told Ars, a statement that was agreeable to the report’s other sources. “Publishing something to ePub is very similar to publishing web content. Remember iWeb? That iWeb code didn’t just get flushed down the toilet—I think you’ll see some of [that code] repurposed.” Late Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs was known to have been involved with the initiative, and according to the report worked on this project for several years.