McGraw-Hill CEO gives credit for iBooks textbooks vision to Steve Jobs

Following Apple’s big education announcements yesterday with the introduction of iBooks 2.0, iBooks Author, and the iTunes U iOS app, the CEO of publisher McGraw-Hill Terry McGraw —one of Apple’s partners bringing textbooks to the iBookstore— sat down with All Things D to discuss the new partnership. When asked how long his company has been in talks with Apple, McGraw discussed meeting with Jobs:

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.

We already learned in Walter Isaacson’s “Steve Jobs” biography that Jobs had his “sights set on textbooks as the next business he wanted to transform.” According to the book, Jobs’ “idea was to hire great textbook writers to create digital versions” for the iPad. We also knew he held meetings with major publishers, but we now know he was still working on the textbook projects until at least June.

All Things D also asked McGraw about the possibility of bringing similar content to Google’s platforms. McGraw avoided answering the question directly:

We’ll do whatever we can to make this the most meaningful space. And the person, or well — Steve Jobs and Apple, have done more, in terms of creating this personalized learning platform than anyone.

We are excited about it. I get questions that are more defensive. You know: “Are you concerned about the fact that you could be replaced?” No. You can’t replace content and curriculum and pedagogy and all of that. We’ve got a different platform now, than a textbook, to do all of that. Everybody wins

A report from Wall Street Journal before Apple’s announcements claimed the company had been working closely with publisher McGraw Hill since June. We have also learned today that top Apple executives met with educators and school board members to discuss how the company could collaborate with local school districts. Specifically, at least 12 employees from Arlington Public Schools traveled to Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., in November of last year to meet with the “CEO and top executives from Apple.” The source is the Arlington County Taxpayers Association who is taking issue with the almost $12,000 of taxpayer money the trip cost.

Another one of Apple’s textbook partners, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, released a study today of its yearlong pilot program for its “Algebra 1” iPad app textbook. This and similar apps are —of course— HMH’s textbook offerings on iPad before the new iBooks announcements. The pilot study took place in California’s Riverside Unified School District and found 78 percent of students using the digital textbook scored “Proficient or Advanced” on the 2011 California Standards Tests. In comparison, only 59 percent of conventional textbook users scored the same, while the iPad textbook users scored an average of 20 percent higher on the tests. The textbook apps used in the study were priced as high as $60, significantly higher than the $14.99 price tag introduced by Apple yesterday.

At least one publisher is concerned about Apple’s new push into the textbook industry. David O’Brien of Cengage Learning told The Australian the company is concerned that hundreds of thousands of Australian students are already using government-funded Windows netbooks. He claimed that since Apple’s new textbooks will be iPad-only, it might not be viable “for taxpayers, governments and schools to help fund iPads for all students.” O’Brien said there were “serious issues to be addressed.” Cengage Learning was not included as one of Apple’s initial partners at its education event yesterday.

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Avatar for Jordan Kahn Jordan Kahn

Jordan writes about all things Apple as Senior Editor of 9to5Mac, & contributes to 9to5Google, 9to5Toys, & He also co-authors 9to5Mac’s Logic Pros series.