The most neglected native app of my iOS devices, iBooks, is looking much more attractive all of a sudden. I’m sure you’ve already read or heard about Apple’s iBooks 2, which will boast all kinds of interactive educational goodies and the opportunity to self-publish digital content.

You know what that means? More horse ebooks and books about raising your credit score. Sweet.

I kid, I kid. In all seriousness though, I’m sure the new digital iBook publishing will shake up the textbook industry, make some people lose their jobs, and create newer, digital-based ones (Subject-specific Content and Digital Media Editors, perhaps?). Above all, I’m most impressed with Apple’s intention of tackling student engagement with the iPad.

"…no one person or company can fix it all, but we try to figure out what, at Apple, we can do-- our part to contribute to improving the situation." Phil Schiller, Apple VP Worldwide Marketing, on education.

As an average guy who went to public school, that statement makes me very happy.

Engagement is a difficult task

Whether you’re intrinsically or extrinsically wired, engagement is still a hurdle to leap over during school.

Let me blow your mind: I’m terrible at math and science. The subjects interest me, but outside of basic business math and common sense physics and chemistry, don’t rely on me to solve anything more complex than that.

The subjects always interested me ever since I opened my first math or science textbook. The problem wasn’t the subject. Eventually, I’d get lost in the mechanics of it all, spacing out during classes and lectures. The instructor wanted me to learn a formula or concept their way and not my way. I can’t do that very well.

What’s my way of learning? I’d say I’m much more of a trial and error, hands-on-type person. I didn’t learn this until getting my hands dirty and failing hundreds of times during the start of my adult life. Yes, much after K through 12.

I believe that in order for a student to appreciate engagement, they have to experience it. This is why I think youth sports are so fantastic. You’re a part of a team working towards a common goal. You can be terrible at the position or role, but you’re a part of it all. You’re engaged. Losing yields a lesson. Winning yields a bit of a better one.

Off the field, a chance at getting hands on curriculum should yield similar camaraderie and engagement. At least, I’d like to believe so. These fancy iBooks are applying the hands-on, whether a student likes it or not, into the curriculum. My inner student jumps for joy.

Curating and catering towards understanding

Converting a high school textbook from printed format to digital iBook action will not be the same as scanning a document into a PDF. It requires smart, intelligent professionals who know how to curate and organize the right bits of knowledge and make it shine on the iOS platform.

These digital editors will hopefully understand that their audience are not just instructors, but also students. This combination of users will have specific behaviors and needs from their iBooks.

The last time I checked, a textbook never took my behavior into account. They’re a great starting point at seeking information that I need, but the way that I got there was no different than another student. Unless, that student believes in eating the textbook to gain knowledge, or something much different like that.

I’m hoping that textbook publishers will assign sharp, user-centric content strategists and developers to the task of launching this new wave of interactive textbook. We obsess over our users and how they end up experiencing content. It’s a great opportunity and recommendation of people who have the skill set and wherewithal to inspire students to use and fully experience knowledge.