Students, please crack open your iPads!

Textbook publishers are gearing up for the release of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad, according to this morning's Wall Street Journal.

Makers of textbooks and study guides -- including Pearson (NYSE:PSO), McGraw-Hill (NYSE:MHP), Washington Post's (NYSE:WPO) Kaplan, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt -- have entered into deals with ScrollMotion to bring their costly and hefty reads to the iPad.

It's not as if Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) is ignoring this juicy market. It has been offered as a textbook alternative in some colleges since 2008. A few campuses backed away from the Kindle recently -- when blind student organizations sued -- but the real drawback for Amazon's reader as a textbook replacement is its inability to render the colorful graphics found in many schoolbooks.

Barnes & Noble's (NYSE:BKS) nook offers a small full-color screen, but the iPad seems to be the perfect fit to bring colorful textbooks to life.

We'll know soon enough. Apple expects to begin shipping iPads next month. Brisk sales over the next few months would give colleges every incentive to warm up to digital textbooks before the fall semester rolls around.

Amazon can't let this happen. Losing out on the sale of physical books, where it can undercut the campus bookstore, would sting even more if the sales went through Apple's virtual storefront instead.

The iPad can succeed as a multipurpose device without eating into Kindle's dominance, but the moment that Apple's gadget is seen by influential high school and college kids as the digital reader of choice, it will be hard for Amazon to get that mojo back.

If Apple moves to the head of the class, what becomes of Oprah's teacher's pet?

Who will champion the inevitable digital textbook revolution? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Apple and Amazon.com are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Pearson is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services, free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been a Kindle owner since 2008. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy.