Making the iPad essential for students

I’ve just had a few days to play with the iPad and I’m pretty impressed so far. But after spending some time with iBook, and thinking about the potential audiences, it seems pretty clear to me that Apple has missed one huge audience. But they could fix this very quickly and turn the iPad into an absolute must-have for students.

I was thinking back to when I was in high school and college. Like most students, I spent a great deal of time reading textbooks, and taking notes. Perhaps you already see where I’m going with this. I turn on my iPad, and start reading a textbook. So far, so good, it’s a great reading experience. But as I’m reading I want to annotate — but more than simple annotations, I want to highlight passages, write my thoughts, and collect all of that information. So here’s my suggestion for Apple, to make this experience unbeatable.

I want to be able to read a book in iBook, and turn on a sidebar for notes. If I tap in the sidebar, I should get the keyboard to enter my notes, then tap the book to hide the keyboard again. I should also be able to select a passage in the book, and drag it into the sidebar, where it should be automatically enclosed in quotes. Then I can enter notes about the passage. It should also automatically put the page number of the passage in parentheses, so when I’m reviewing my notes later I can find the passage again.

Then, when I’m done reading the book, I should be able to click a button and have all of my notes, with any quoted passages, exported to iWork Pages, so I can format them and create my term paper.

How hard would it be for Apple to add this functionality? Probably be a week’s work for a developer, I would expect. Nothing magical here, just common sense. Oh, and for anyone who’s going to say that you could select the whole book, export it to Pages, and pirate the book, sure — have it limit any quoted passage to a paragraph. You want to copy a whole book, one paragraph at a time? There’s no stopping crazy people, go for it.

Apple, are you listening? Do students a favor, and change their lives with this.

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