Well, maybe not today. If you fire up your iPad and update to the latest version of iBooks (Apple’s app for books with its own store separate from iTunes), you can check out all of the new textbooks Apple just introduced. All 8 of them. That’s right, there are only 8 textbooks available in the new format: Two biology books, E.O. Wilson’s Life On Earth, plus one each on geometry, physics, chemistry, algebra, and environmental sciences.
More will be available in the future, no doubt, but 8 seems like a pretty meager number to launch with. The books are also huge files, weighing in at about 1 GB each. One crashed the iPad 1 which I tested it on (that’s what was handy, but even an iPad 1 should be able to handle a textbook, don’t you think?). The textbooks look appealing, with cool interactive features and the ability to highlight passages and take notes, but it’s all pretty standard stuff.
The big question this raises is whether the assembled publishers are taking the iPad seriously as a way to sell digital textbooks or if this is just a test for them. We will find out soon enough as the number of titles grows. It needs to be in the thousands, and then tens of thousands, very soon for this to make a difference.