Apple to enter the digital textbook fray?

Apple's invitation created an instant stir on social media sites.

Education-technology advocates took notice when the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs called the textbook industry “ripe for destruction” in his official biography. On Jan. 19, school technologists might just see what Jobs had in mind.

A flurry of speculation about Apple’s entry into the digital textbook market swept across Twitter, Facebook, and technology blogs after Apple released an invitation touting an “education announcement at the Big Apple” Wednesday afternoon.

The event will start 10 a.m. on Jan. 19 at New York City’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Observers and bloggers who track the technology giant’s every move said they expect the unveiling of an iBookstore that would operate like iTunes, Apple’s music store. The announcement is not expected to include any new Apple hardware like the much-anticipated iPad 3.

In Jobs’s official biography, penned by Walter Isaacson, Jobs mentions the U.S. textbook industry as one “ripe for destruction,” Isaacson wrote.

The “idea was to hire great textbook writers to create digital versions, and make them a feature of the iPad,” Isaacson wrote. “In addition he held meetings with the major publishers such as Pearson Education, about partnering with Apple.”

Three months after Jobs succumbed to cancer, it’s unclear how Apple will enter the growing digital textbook industry, but it’s become clear that the company is focused on expanding its reach, according to Jordan Golson, an editor for MacRumors, a blog that tracks Apple news.

“It seems likely that Apple will work with existing textbook makers to build interactive iPad editions of existing textbooks, rather than Apple hiring textbook writers directly and offering the content for free. Apple loves to be disruptive, but the company hasn’t turned into a publishing company like Amazon has,” he said. “Just because Jobs had the idea, doesn’t mean Apple will follow it to the letter.”