Apple's Taking Over Textbooks — Are Training Manuals Next?

With its unveiling last week of the second iteration of its iBookstore and new e-book-creation "Author" application, Apple appears to have set its sights on reshaping the world of educational publishing.

0124_applebook_Brian Lane Winfield MooreIn many circles, Apple's moves — which include inking a deal to sell major textbook imprints as e-books through its iTunes bookstore, and establishing a so-called "iTunes U" portal for all things education — are already being hailed as game-changing (if not more). And while most of the conversation has focused on Apple's potential to overhaul the textbook-publishing landscape and maybe even re-make the public education model, it's fair to wonder what Apple's newest bid will mean for professional workforce training.

In particular, Apple's Author app, which allows novice users to easily create pretty impressive and dynamic e-books from scratch or from templates (or dragged in directly from Keynote, Apple's PowerPoint stand-in), could conceivably be of use for workforce trainers. By digitizing workbooks and training guides — long the realm of those long-forgotten three-ring binders stashed away in some unused desk drawer — the Author app offers a way for training professionals to quickly create interactive manuals that employees access via computer, tablet, or iPhone, and store (without taking up a bunch of space on their desk).

Of course, Apple's products also have their drawbacks, mostly related to the company's products' proprietary nature. Since the Author app is tied directly to Apple's iBookstore, it's also married to Apple's iPhone or iPad products. Not every worker owns one of those (believe it or not). And then you get into some of Apple's other issues — from dubious user agreements to a still-skeptical publishing world to its frustrating, ongoing inability to support Flash.

That said, Apple has already demonstrated its considerable ability to totally reshape industries through its simple, easy-to-use products. And given how many overlaps there are between corporate training and educational e-learning, it'd be easy to imagine Apple eventually targeting its wares to the online training community.

Meghan Bender contributed to this report.

Image used under Creative Commons by Flickr user Brian Lane Winfield Moore.

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