The Price of iPad-Based Textbooks

Joshua Topolsky:

The company had no announcements to make (and that sentiment didn’t change when I pressed reps for comment), but it will be an interesting question to see answered in the coming months. If Apple wants school districts to buy an iPad for every student, it’s going to take more than just a great presentation. When we spoke to Phil Schiller, he told us that he thinks the numbers work out favorably for school districts if you weigh the costs of textbooks and classroom computers against iBooks content and iPads. “It’s affordable for schools,” was the message.

Apple’s leasing plan will go a long way. Again, Topolsky:

The company did tell us that it works with districts to lease iPads on a four-year schedule — so that will potentially ease the strain on budgets.

This is a big issue, but there are several factors at play not mentioned by Topolsky:

  • iPads are several hundred dollars less than laptops, and many schools already have a MacBook 1–1 program. 1–1 machine are usually leased, so costs may come down for some schools.
  • Apple doesn’t publicly discuss education pricing. While I don’t have any insight here, I’m positive schools aren’t paying retail for iPads if they buy them outright.[1]
  • Often, schools can use grant money for technology upgrades.

I hope that schools can easily get iPads in to the classrooms, but I know it will take time. Obviously, it will occur in more affluent school districts first, which is how these things normally go.[^2]

I am interesting at looking at what point the cost of an iPad (plus a few $15 books) meets the cost of textbooks. But I’ll leave that to someone smarter than me.

  1. Several readers have emailed telling me this is not the case. If Apple keeps the iPad 2 around after the 3 is released, maybe pricing will come down. I do know that educational discounts on MacBooks can be pretty decent, depending on volume.
    [^2]: It’s a damn shame, too. The poorest schools are often where things like this can make the biggest impact.  ↩