Monday, January 16, 2012

Is Apple making the equivalent of "GarageBand" for ebooks? Wild Speculation.

Rumors are flying, as they always do, at "Cult of Mac." This time it's about Apple's big announcement this coming Thursday (Jan 19). Whatever it is, it is supposed to revolutionize education or textbooks or epublishing or...well, I guess we'll see.  Since I'm a professor and have made online courses I am interested in just how revolutionary it will be.  Call me skeptical, but the fact that several major textbook publishers are going to be there makes me think it can't be all that revolutionary. I don't like the textbook industry much. They charge outrageous amounts for mostly boring material. Since I love photobooks, I can't help but think it absurd that a first year French textbook with one star reviews (such as "I whole heartedly regret purchasing this book.") costs the same as a gorgeously printed,  hard cover, slip-case, Steidl, two volume book on Berenice Abbott that has 5 star reviews (like this one: "This is a special book. I was going to give it to my son who is a professional photographer, but selfisness has overcome me and its staying right here in my library"). Which would you rather spend $133 on?

I can gripe about this in good conscience because my students don't pay a dime for my online textbook, which, with podcast downloads and interactive exercises throughout is more user-friendly than most.

But why bring any of this up on a photography blog?

Mainly, because while we are in the wild speculation period, I would like to speculate that maybe Apple's announcement will be some sort of GarageBand for ebooks, and that if it is, maybe it will be something that can really bring photobooks to the iPad.

Right now, anyone can author an ebook, but not a photo ebook. There are just too many limitations on file sizes and formatting. If you want to do a photobook, you need to make it an app—and how many of us can author apps?

What if iBookstores could be filled with self-published photobooks that could be sold for $1.99 but reach a huge audience? I'm not talking about Steidl, but rather about all of those photographers who are lucky to be able to afford a "limited edition of 20" (unless you're also do a larger print run, "limited edition" is usually code for "that's all I could afford to publish.")

Considering how many photographers are running around showing portfolios on their iPads, it's a wonder Apple has come up with something that would allow them to create books they can sell. I would LOVE to have a library of photobooks on my iPad, especially ones I could buy from lesser known photographers for the price of apps. I would LOVE to author a few photobooks and sell them for $1 on an iBookstore.

Maybe the big announcement won't have anything to do with that. Maybe it will just be "ooh. look. textbooks by big publishing houses on your iPad." But until Thursday, I can imagine something better.