What Does iBooks Author Mean For Literacy?
According to Walter Issacson’s Biography of Steve Jobs, it was Jobs’ legacy to transform the creation and distribution of textbooks in Education. Well that legacy has now arrived in the form of a new app called iBooks Author which helps facilitate the creation of iBooks on the iOS platform. Notice how I didn’t say eBooks, since if you read the iBooks Author licensing agreement it clearly states that anyone who creates a book with the software is limited to distribution solely in the App Store. While others are focusing on the app’s features and the overall announcement, I wish to provoke the question: “What Does this mean for literacy in America?”
I have long been a proponent of visual literacy. I find the definition of the term literacy to be far too narrow in most people’s vocabulary. To be visually literate, one must understand how to both read and write in the pre-dominate visual media of our society: the image and video. A vast large majority of us choose to simply consume visual media on television, in advertisements, pictorial features of print media, and the Internet. Most of us choose to write in our native language, but far fewer pick up a video camera and edit together a piece for Youtube. I believe this has largely to do with our antiquated Educational System in America, which prefers the written word to any other communications media
iBooks Author is a complete game changer when it comes to the authoring of content for mass distribution. Sure there was inDesign but Adobe’s implementation is so counterintuitive it’ll make your head spin. iBooks Author combines all the features of the web with the flair and intuitiveness Apple is so good at providing. While Apple provides a full list of features on their website and plenty of others are commenting about them, I want to discuss only a few here. Galleries allow for the reader to dive into a slideshow of images, while embedded videos can be played in fullscreen. 3D Models allow for 360 degree rotation of objects. The widgets provided in the app aren’t the end all be all however, as any app created with Dashcode can be loaded onto a page of any book you create.
What this means for literacy isn’t a new phenomenon, but I think it is important to note at this juncture since no one has even tried to distribute eBooks on a massive scale to America’s Educational System like Apple is currently doing. Let me just cut to the chase. What I am worried about is that this medium of the iBook will just be another stepping stone in the mountain one must climb in order to be fully literate in our technocratic society. Although it isn’t completely necessary, to make a book that is rich with content the author will not only have to be a writer or designer, but videographer and computer programmer as well. The interactivity that is built into the app will suffice for most purposes, but others will experiment and find new interactive possibilities with Dashcode inside of iBooks Author. These experimenters will be the only ones who can claim to be fully literate in the medium of the eBook, while the rest of us continue browsing iBooks at a fifth-grade level.
I hope school systems in America adopt the iPad for use in the classroom and we begin to see an increase in test scores and overall literacy, even if that term remains confined to the written word in the mind of most Academics. If anything, interactive textbooks will keep students attention for a little while longer than traditional print and it will be cheaper for the schools I imagine as well. It really is a win-win for everyone except the rest of the industry invested in tablets. I for one will remain skeptical of their overall impact as I continue to advocate for the introduction of mandatory digital arts curricula across the Nation.
What do you think iBooks Author means for literacy in America? Post a comment below.