By Guest Author Melissa.

Leave it to Apple to bring the latest digital innovation front and center in the marketplace. On Thursday, January 19, Apple announced the launch of iBooks 2, an app for the iPad that has the potential to change the face of education.

Apple is not the first tablet developer to take the plunge into digital textbooks, but most of the others have focused primarily on college texts. Apple’s iBooks 2 has its share of college texts, but the innovator is also looking to bring this technology to high school and elementary classrooms, where lack of student engagement with texts is a huge problem cited by teachers.

The iBooks 2 app allows iPad users to download interactive digital textbooks directly to their tablet. With the interactive features of these texts, student engagement increases substantially. In public school districts where Apple has tested the iBooks platform, teachers reported an increase in excitement in their students. Testing of the academic success of these students over those using traditional textbooks will take place this year.

More than just an e-reader

The iBooks 2 app is more than just a typical e-reader. The goal of the app is to make texts as interactive as possible. Apple designed it to allow students to retain their texts for the long term, meaning they can be re-downloaded as needed, either for a later course or for future reference in their careers. Students can tap terms they do not understand and see the glossary listing. Also, they can easily move between sections of the book, highlight text with the touch of a finger, and store important portions of the document in the iCloud to refer to later.

The app also makes studying simple. Students or teachers using the app can turn important glossary terms into flashcards that can be shuffled to help with study needs. Highlighted sections are automatically turned into study cards. In the world of education, this could cut down on the time it takes to prepare study materials, increasing the appeal of the app and the iPad as a study device for students.

Benefits for students and educators

Digital texts benefits both students and teachers. They typically cost less than their print counterparts, allowing college students to lower their education costs and public school districts to save money as well. Outdated texts could become less of a problem with the ease and affordability of updating digital textbooks.

Demand for digital textbooks fueled by online universities

Part of what has fueled this demand for digital texts is the increased demand and availability of online education. Students attending an online university find the use of digital texts to be quite convenient. With the growth of online education, these digital textbooks are quickly becoming a mainstream item. Over the past ten years they have gone from a novelty used in a few niche courses to something seen on campuses around the country.

With iBooks 2, Apple isn’t just hoping to change the face of education—they’re working to integrate themselves into educational textbooks in the same way they integrated Apple products into music. With the company’s dedication to education, it’s possible that iBooks 2 could usher in a new paradigm for teaching and learning.

Melissa blogs on behalf of American Intercontinental University and lives in Indianapolis with her two dogs.