Recently, my fellow Fool Evan Niu wrote that Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iBooks 2 will revolutionize education. I, with all respect to Evan and his opinion, disagree. Once you look past the flashiness of the new technology and think about the realities of bringing iPads to the classroom, Apple's business model simply doesn't work.
On the surface, iBooks 2 looks promising. As a former tutor, I would love to have had digital copies of my students' textbooks and the ability to make impromptu flashcards. I was also impressed that Apple secured the support of major content providers McGraw-Hill (NYSE: MHP ) , Pearson (NYSE: PSO ) , and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Unfortunately, slick features and publisher support aren't enough. You also have to consider the cost.
Normally, public-school students receive a copy of a textbook at the beginning of the year and return it at the end. Apple's system requires students to have an iPad -- which costs at least $500 -- and then to purchase digital copies of their books for $14.99 each.
Many families simply cannot afford to buy their kids new iPads every couple of years. This means that for teachers to take advantage of the benefits of the new technology, the school would have to keep a collection of iPads on hand to either lend out as necessary or issue to students as if they were textbooks.
Even if cash-strapped school systems managed to acquire enough iPads for all its students, because kids are kids, it's a pretty safe bet that at least a couple of the tablets wouldn't survive the school year. Odds are the school system will be forced to foot the bill, and I doubt many school systems have the ability to take on that extra expense to go digital.
Minimum passing grade
At the bare minimum, the technology that replaces textbooks must work across multiple platforms and be capable of running on the cheapest hardware. Anything short of that will just be another thing that only more prosperous parents can purchase in hopes of giving their children a leg up. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's not a revolution.
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