iBook Author For Attorneys? Apple’s E-Textbook Industry & Lawyers

Yesterday, the Internet was aflutter about the announcement of iBooks 2, iBooks Author, by Apple.

Online critics questioned: The demise of the publishing industry? New opportunities for budding authors? Open season on new entrants to the electronic textbook field?

First, it’s important to know what the culprit—iBooks—is all about. So, here is the description of the first version of the app:

“Now anyone can create stunning iBooks textbooks, cookbooks, history books, picture books, and more for iPad. All you need is an idea and a Mac. Start with one of the Apple-designed templates that feature a wide variety of page layouts. Add your own text and images with drag-and-drop ease. Use Multi-Touch widgets to include interactive photo galleries, movies, Keynote presentations, 3D objects, and more. Preview your book on your iPad at any time. Then submit your finished work to the iBookstore with a few simple steps. And before you know it, you’re a published author.”

Scary.

Wait a minute, not so much. It’s hard to understand, then, why all the buzz?

It’s no secret that Apple hopes to put an iPad in every classroom in America in the near future. The first step in accomplishing this monumental feat is tackling the publishing industry. After all, after desks and students, the next items to create a complete classroom are textbooks. E-learning, these days, makes teachers practically moot.

With this in mind, Apple’s foray into the field of online learning has been its app, iBooks.

iBooks allows any person to become an author. And, the second-generation software will include movies, multi-touch gestures, links, lightning-fast searches, photo galleries, visual Q&A sections, 3-D models and other interactive elements to textbooks.

Thursday, Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller revealed iBooks 2 and kicked off the company’s invitation-only event, according to Technologizer’s Henry McCracken, with:

“Education is deep in our DNA, and it has been since the very beginning.”

In fact, education promotes intellectual advancement and innovation in both students and professionals. Just take the CLE requirements in the field of law or medicine as examples.

New company and website PandoDaily writes about the Apple iBook controversy, “Every time technology makes it easier for authors to self-publish, we hear the same crowing from Silicon Valley. ‘That’s it!’ they cry ‘publishers are doomed! Now authors can publish their own books, there’s no need for greedy, bloated gatekeepers who just want to force-feed us Snooki like a Frenchman force-feeding grain to a goose.’”

But, Pando’s not buying the hype.

“A year or so ago, I wrote an essay about why self-publishing will never kill professional publishing. Reading it back now , one paragraph jumps out…

‘…in a world where anyone can publish a book, we’re more likely than ever to be drawn to titles put out by recognised publishing houses. We simply don’t have time to sift through the millions of options available to us, so a good first filter will be titles we know have been edited by professionals, which a major publishing house has deemed of sufficient quality to warrant making a financial investment. Those of us lucky enough to have a W&N or Harper Collins or Portfolio logo on our title page will automatically hop to the front of the attention queue, both in terms of end readers and the still-very-important book reviewers.’

iBooks isn’t going to change that. If anything it’s going to make the signal-to-noise ration worse — which in turn makes the role of a professional publisher even more valuable. Particularly in text books, where trust and accuracy are not just an important thing, they’re the only thing. That’s why Apple partnered with McGraw-Hill, Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for today’s launch announcement.”

Phew. Academics and publishers can rest assured that 2012 is not, in fact, the industry’s doomsday.

Nevertheless, an opportunity remains for law firm professionals looking to publish.

The first e-textbooks to arrive on the iPad will be exceedingly popular. And, millions of students will use them as a source of reference.

As a law firm, why not become an early entrant to the burgeoning industry? Forrester Research said e-books accounted for only 2.8 percent of the $8 billion U.S. textbook market in 2010, according to FindLaw news.

Not only will producing a law e-book get your firm’s name out on the market, it will also advertise your firm’s expertise to inquiring young minds and prospective future attorneys and clients.

Or, if your firm is uninterested in selling textbooks, try creating a reference manual on, say, law firm management or internal e-policy. Undoubtedly, the interactive portions of iBook Author will make mandatory sexual harassment or new employee training much more engaging.

Not to mention, the iBook Author software to produce electronic textbooks of informative, topical legal analysis is—as it ever was—still free.

Clearly, the New Year marks a change in every American classroom—an Apple for each teacher, and now each student, and, potentially, new, aspiring lawyers.

-WB

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