I Really Want to Go Back to School

Published by on Feb 12th, 2013, No Comments

As a teenager all I ever wanted at school was a locker. There were two reasons for this, firstly so I could have awkward encounters with the pretty girl serendipitously placed next to me and secondly so that I didn’t have to carry all those heavy books around!

Thankfully Core (the distributors of Apple in South Africa) have both solved my historical problems and ruined my serendipity fantasy. Last week the company released ZABooks, a project to get every single South African textbook onto the iPad to get kids learning using digital textbooks.

The concept is simple: you download the ZABooks app onto your iPad (I can see the iPad Mini becoming the de facto choice for schools soon) and then go to the ZABooks website to buy the books you require. You then login to the app on your iPad and you can start downloading books. You can get books from Grade 1 to Grade 12 and at launch there are over 600 textbooks already available. All the major publishers are on board and books are generally at least 25% cheaper than the print editions. I took a random book on the store (Advocates For Change by Moeletsi Mbeki) and while ZABooks charges R180 for it you can get the print edition for R202 on That is without shipping (anything over R250 gets free shipping) and Kalahari is generally cheaper than brick and mortar stores so pricing does seem spot on. From a pricing perspective it’s probably going to take a while to amortise the cost of the iPad but in my house we have an upgrade cycle where an “old” iPad is passed down to the younger members of the family meaning that child already had access to an iPad. (more…)

Apple Event to Focus on Education, but can they “Digitally Destroy” Textbooks?

Published by on Jan 18th, 2012, 10 Comments

On Thursday Apple will hold a small event to show off its latest efforts in the education market. Most sources seem to agree that the event will focus on ways in which textbooks can be brought into the digital age of tablets – but Apple might have a few other tricks up its sleeve. The event might also focus on the announcement of new tools that can be used to create these digital textbooks.

The case for digital textbook has been around for a while. Textbooks are expensive to buy, expensive to print and also heavy to carry around. Imagine a student a few years from now just carrying around a tablet, which has his/her textbooks stored. But the aim is not purely to replace existing textbooks – the value will lie in what type of interactivity can be built into a digital textbook. Instead of static images you find in normal textbooks, textbook publishers can now build in interactive features that enable the reader to better understand a particular issue – think videos, 3D models, sound clips etc.

Traditional textbook publishers will probably show off what textbook experiences they are planning for the iPad, while Apple might show some new content creation tools that will make it easier than ever to publish for the iPad. Right now the digital publishing market is also ripe for revolution with publishers being forced to code apps from scratch, or to use tools like Adobe’s Folio Builder. If Apple can build an easy to use, but powerful tool to build interactive textbooks, it will create another market in which Apple can dominate. The iPad is already doing very well, but if Apple can convince publishers to publish exclusively to the iPad, we can expect to see many students to switch to iPads.