Apple’s textbooks see 350,000 downloads in 3 days: Will it last?

Apple’s (s aapl) new iBooks digital textbooks initiative has seen 350,000 downloads in just three days, according to Global Equities Research (via AllThingsD), which keeps track of downloads from Apple’s store via a proprietary tracking tool. That’s a strong start for Apple’s expanded educational offerings, but the real question will be whether that can translate into long-term success.
The new iBooks interactive textbooks, which come from major educational publishers like McGraw-Hill (s mhp) and Pearson(s pso), among others, were unveiled last week at an Apple media event in New York City. The textbooks were the primary focus of the event, which also saw the introduction of iBooks Author, an e-book creation tool, and an iTunes U-dedicated iOS application. iBooks Author saw 90,000 downloads in the three days following its introduction, Global Equities Research said, but it didn’t share numbers for iTunes U.
That Apple would see 350,000 downloads of its iBooks textbooks immediately following their unveiling is not surprising, especially given that the store offers free samples, as well as one of its highlighted books free in its entirety. Curiosity, media interest and a desire to check out something new from Apple’s digital storefront would definitely all contribute to heightened interest.
The real test, however, will be whether or not Apple’s textbooks can keep up their momentum long-term. AllThingsD’s John Paczkowski points out that publishers are counting on higher volume sales at lower prices to make selling digital textbooks at $15 more profitable than selling paper versions at $75. But getting schools and parents to buy into a system in which books can’t be passed on from student to student, and which could potentially be paid for directly by parents themselves won’t be a simple matter. Not to mention that iPads are required to make the system work, which obviously represents a considerable expense in itself.
Over at ZDNet, (s cbs) James Kendrick has a good round-up of the arguments against Apple’s textbook initiative succeeding. He lists a lot of good points, but overall you get the sense that the biggest problem might just be a lot of hesitation from schools about adopting a model so different from what’s currently in place. Institutional inertia is not easily overcome, after all.
Three hundred fifty thousand digital textbooks downloaded in three days is definitely impressive, and could bode well for Apple’s textbooks initiative; people are obviously interested, and that’s a good thing. But the real test is yet to come. Download numbers following the kick-off of the school year next fall will definitely be a better time to make prognostications about the success or failure of Apple’s latest venture.