January 25, 2012

From Gerald R. Lucas

Apple Inspiration


Last night, I was finally able to view Apple’s recent education event from New York City. Yes, I had read about their announcements and downloaded iBooks Author and the new iTunes U, but hadn't realized just how potentially game-changing these new tools are for what I do.

Ever since iBooks came out with the iPad, I have wanted to publish some of my own content. Yet, as anyone who has ever tried can attest, this is not easy. Creating EPUBs is just awkward and inconvenient. Think of it as writing a web page before WISWYG editors, or composing an essay on a pre-GUI word processor.

The recent release of Pages allows a document to be exported as an EPUB, but then to actually see it, a transfer to the iPad is necessary. In theory, this should be easy, but iTunes is such a piece of junk, that nothing like this is ever easy. (Say, Apple, when are you gonna fix this obsolete piece of bloatware anyway?) So, until the release of iBook Author, writing electronic books was not exactly convenient or easy.

Supposedly, iBooks Author is changing all of that. Roger Rosner's demo was way cool -- the video above gives you a bit of a look. The keynote emphasizes textbooks, but the potential for any kind of electronic publication is there. For example, I’ve started publishing literary content on LitMUSE, but wouldn't delivery on the iPad be so much better, especially since you can annotate it and take it with you even without a network connection? Yes, maybe this is one more nail in the Web’s coffin. Plus, the ability to add multimedia content—e.g., Eliot reading The Waste Land, excerpts from a documentary on Homer, or photos I recently took in Greece—would boost it to the next level—especially in a Humanities class. I already have a ton of original content.

And speaking of the end of the Web, perhaps LitMUSE’s days as a course Web site are numbered in the light of the new iTunes U. It provides a slick way to deliver all sorts of content in a convenient format. They did not demo the course construction during the keynote, but Apple’s web site makes it look pretty easy. I know I would be perfect for this. Maybe this will be LitMUSE 2.0?

I already have ideas for my next semester’s classes, and I can’t wait to get started. I predict this is the beginning of a whole new chapter in my academic life.