Apple is about to have an event in NYC, and by all looks and whispers, it appears that it'll be surrounding something like a "Garage Band for Texbooks" - that sounds pretty darn interesting - let's talk about what it'll really be. I don't pretend to have any inside lines with Apple, nor do I have any tip that should lead you believe that I'm quoting someone else - instead what you're about to read is completely built on my own experience with Apple's past and how I and my former and current student colleagues interact with books. Apple will not, if my mind is cranking out right and telling me the right answers, be revealing a new device, but a new environment where students and colleges can connect to writers in a way that's been possible but not entirely realistic up until now.
At many large universities across the country now, classes are hooked up to the publishers directly already through student fees [tuition] and are able to access articles through the web instead of having to purchase an entire textbook. At the moment, teachers are not allowed to download and print these articles up, but they can tell students to head to the website to download PDF files for themselves. Should Apple make a move to simplify this process, it'd more than likely be that the teacher sends out an email with a link to the iTunes-connected store of choice which then allows you, the student, to download the correct article.
These articles will then be available for printing if you wish, but will be much more valuable to you on your iPad, for example, where you can work with them in a large variety of ways. You'll be able to highlight, circle, copy, paste, and all the normal bigs, but you'll also be able to work with videos, interactive panels - and have the whole thing read out loud to you if you're on the bus and don't want the iPad making you a target for theft, if you know what I mean. It's doubtful, but I suppose PERHAPS possible that this is where the inexpensive iPad comes into play - that being the original iPad discounted to near-free status in the face of the upcoming third generation iPad 3, this the same situation as what's happened with the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 3GS which is also now free on contract wherever fine phones are sold.
Publishers will be at essentially the same point they are now, working with professors to push text to students, but will have to adopt (eventually) a much different model for how they're going to bring in the cash. Where before they were able to add it up and knock it out on the creation process through printers, now they'll have to focus even more on the writers themselves. Perhaps Apple's move into the textbook industry will be the end of the textbook format - let's hope!
Note also that we'll be LIVEBLOGGING at the event, that's January 19th in the morning - so be here and bring your apples for the teacher!