McGraw-Hill CEO Credits Steve Jobs' Digital Textbook Vision Amid Evidence of Pre-iPad Interest

AllThingsD share some thoughts from McGraw-Hill CEO Terry McGraw, who during a Q&A session following yesterday's iBooks Textbooks media event described how the development was part of Steve Jobs' vision for what textbooks should be like.

Sitting and listening to all of this, I wish Steve Jobs was here. I was with him in June this past year, and we were talking about some of the benchmarks, and some of the things that we were trying to do together. He should be here. He probably is [gesturing up and around]. This was his vision, this was his idea, and it all had to do with the iPad.

Jobs' interest in textbooks is of course now well-known, with Jobs himself being quoted in Walter Isaacson's authorized biography as wanting to revolutionize the textbook industry and as having had conversations with publishers such as Pearson about the possibilities.

itunes textbooks
Part of Peters' 2008 iContest presentation on digital textbooks

One other interesting tidbit on the history of digital textbooks at Apple was shared yesterday by a former Apple intern. As related to The Wirecutter, former intern Joseph Peters proposed the idea of digital textbooks back in 2008 as part of an "iContest" in which Apple interns gathered to pitch ideas to mid-level executives for feedback. The textbook ideas suggested by Peters and his group were well-received by Apple's judges, with the team being awarded a free MacBook Air and a meeting with higher-level management to discuss the ideas.

Anyway, we presented and answered the Q&A pretty flawlessly. I mean they said they really liked it and every other presentation received mostly sarcastic remarks.

I remember answering a handful of questions and getting the impression that the exec's were totally on board. It was a pretty awesome feeling. [...]

At the end, they announced that we won, they gave us all a MacBook Air and it was great (for interns anyway). I was more excited about the opportunity to talk to more people about the idea. They scheduled a meeting with John Couch, head of Education a few days later. We met John and a few the people on his team in a small board room and we just gave the same pitch as before.

Peters does not suggest that his group's idea was the genesis of Apple's textbook plans, but it does provide interesting insight into a bit of the intern experience at Apple and reveals that Apple was indeed interested in the textbook idea as far back as 2008, more than a year before the debut of the iPad.

Top Rated Comments

Small White Car Avatar
131 months ago
That's one of the reasons Jobs was so successful. You can tell that he spent years thinking about things like digital textbooks before he started thinking about the iPad.

Most of us weren't sure what an iPad was for when we first saw it. But Steve had already been dreaming up answers to that for many, many years.
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
nwcs Avatar
131 months ago
Yep, it's part of what has made Apple successful over the last decade. They understood the purpose of a device and the content before the device. A lot of the "me too" device manufacturers only create/copy a device without regard or concern about what happens after the sale. I don't think it's as simple as Apple's ecosystem vs everyone else but Apple's focus on usage and content rather than specs and customization. In other words, Apple has a purpose in mind for the devices they create. Many of the other companies out there have no purpose in mind for the devices they make other than to sell them.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ajcadoo Avatar
131 months ago
iTextbooks. The happiest winner: trees.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
basesloaded190 Avatar
131 months ago
I really think we are just beginning to see the actual capabilities of the ipad or any tablet for the matter.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
unlimitedx Avatar
131 months ago
Sorry - but I disagree. The idea of digital books and interactive media are no brainers. And well before the iPad came out or was even thought of - such ideas were written about in books, shown in movies and on TV.

I'm happy to give credit where credit is due - but not to your extent on this matter.
Lots of people have great ideas, but not everyone has what it takes to follow through and execute on those ideas.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Kid A Avatar
131 months ago
iTextbooks. The happiest winner: trees.

yeah, but those iTrees in the iForest are screwed. ;)
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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