Apple is embedding itself into the higher education market with iBooks 2, iBooks Author and a newly minted iTunes U application.

Fittingly, Apple introduced their new education initiatives the prominent Guggenheim Museum in New York, near one of their newest locations at Grand Central Station, on Thursday evening. Apple executives proudly showed off their latest creations aimed at improving the school experience.

“We’re so proud to take part in anything that can help students learn and achieve greatness, ” said Apple senior vice president of worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller. He proudly boasted that education is “deep in Apple’s DNA.” If you were born in the 1980′s you know Apple enjoyed a monopoly-like position in the education market. Do you remember the school computer lab with rows of Macintosh computers? And floppy disks? Those were the days.

Apple’s looking to get students excited about learning by delivering education in an engaging fashion. Here’s their plan of attack:

iBooks 2

The latest version of iBooks, which launched on Thursday as well, supports fullscreen textbooks with interactive animation, charts, photos and videos. Here’s why iBooks 2 wins over traditional printed textbooks hands down:

  • More portable. You won’t have to visit your chiropractor anymore
  • More storage. You can store multiple textbooks on one device
  • Easily updated. Virtual textbooks can be easily updated
  • More engaging. Students will actually enjoy opening their textbooks now
  • Easily searched. You won’t have to flip through a table of contents anymore to find what you need
  • Cheaper! Textbooks will sell for $15 or less

Right now, you’ll only find eight textbooks in Apple’s online iBookstore in a newly created textbooks section. Rest assured, Apple is in talks with educational publishers that account for about 90% of the textbooks sold in the U.S.

iBooks Author

How do you encourage authors to create fully supported textbooks for the iBookstore? You create an app of course, which is exactly what Apple did with iBooks Author. Here’s what you need to know about iBooks Author if you’re interested in publishing a textbook:

  • It’s a free Mac app available from Apple’s Mac App store
  • Comes with a WYSIWYG editor for creating digital textbooks and interactive elements
  • Users can import text from both Pages and Microsoft Word
  • Widgets allow you to add image galleries, glossaries, connections to Internet databases and keynote presentations.

It’s important to note that Apple’s licensing rules state that files created in iBooks Author can’t be sold anywhere else but on the iBookstore.

iTunes U App

Apple is tackling classroom curriculums with its newly created, free iTunes U app. With it, you’ll be able to attend full online courses, including the course syllabus, interactive material, reading material and more. Students will use the app along with virtual textbooks they purchased from iBooks 2. Teachers and students will have everything they need in one single location. Teachers interested in distributing courses via the new application should visit Apple’s iTunes U Course Manager for step-by-step instructions.

Apple is notorious for revolutionizing the way we interact with technology. These latest additions promise to get students and teachers excited about the learning process. We think iBooks 2, iBooks Author and the new iTunes U application will do just that!

What do you think? Would you rather read your textbooks on an iPad? Or do you like holding a traditional textbook in your hands? Let us know in the comments below!