That’s a point I never thought about.  Storage space on iPads is limited, and the price of the iPad goes up a lot as you get units with more memory.  Chris Maxcer makes this point in an article in MaNewsWorld:

E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth, however, is free — at least, a preview and a sample chapter is free. Good enough for me. I downloaded all 965 MB of it, and this is only for a partial e-book. One of the other e-books, Pearson’s Biology, boasts a print length of 1,791 pages and a digital size of 2.77 GB.

If Apple really wants to replace heavy textbook-laden backpacks on small children with iPads loaded with digital textbooks, the company better ditch its low-end 16 GB iPad 2 models pronto and cram some more storage into them. Do the math, and your average school kid might have to choose to leave some digital textbooks home on their PCs — and that’s even if they deleted Infinity Blade first!

I know that on my 16G iPad I don’t have room for this sort of thing.   Thanks to Michael von Glahn for the link.


  1. Maxcer is not much of a thinker is he.

    “If Apple really wants to replace heavy textbook-laden backpacks on small children with iPads loaded with digital textbooks, the company better ditch its low-end 16 GB iPad 2 models pronto and cram some more storage into them.”

    Why is that exactly ? What percentage of iPad customers will be students using eTextbooks ? Why on earth would they stop producing the 16Gb just because it doesn’t have enough space for that infinitesimal group ?? the mind boggles at Mr Maxcer’s intellect.

    The size issue is a concern. But there is a 64Gb iPad and one wonders how many eTextbooks of that scale any individual student would be likely to need during one school or college year ….

  2. I noticed the file sizes too, but it’s nothing new. Magazines like Wired, The New Yorker, are almost a gig an issue since they were available on the iPad.

    They’re not textbooks or magazines anymore, they are audio, video and interactive Flash packages. There ought to be an option to download and delete the space hogs as needed.

  3. I pointed this out in comments to the earlier posts on the Apple etextbook stories. When you start adding lots of pretty pictures and bells and whistles, the file sizes get huge. If you’re a high school student taking 5-7 classes, there’s a good chance that all of your textbooks aren’t going to fit in 16 GB. Then what? The cloud? More expensive iPad (since there’s no SD card slot on on iPad?)

  4. This is one weakness of highly visual and rich media books that isn’t being discussed much. Books with text and a bit of line art are small. Add audio and they began to grow quickly. Add video and they become enormous. That adds to storage space on the device and download time from the retailer. I’ve got fast broadband, but even with it I’d groan over a 1 GB download. And it also means that such ‘books’ make no sense with Amazon’s cellular download. The fees Amazon charges for a GB via cellular would devour any profit an author or publisher might make.

    It’d be far better in most cases to focusing on linking within an ebook to externally stored videos like interviews of the author (say on YouTube). Something that’s huge and likely to be watched only once just isn’t worth the space it takes up on an iPad or Kindle Fire. Another option would be to allow a reader to watch the included video and then click/tap to have the video striped out of the stored ebook.

  5. Another variable here could be the limits of the ZIP format used in both .epub and .ibooks files. The standard ZIP format is limited to 4 Gb. Using “Life on Earth” and extrapolating, we’d be limited to 8-9 chapters. Of course the first two chapters are heavy with widgets to illustrate the range of possibilities so may not be representative samples.

    However, 64-bit ZIP is sufficiently captious at 16 exbibytes (researchers at UC Berkley have made the claim that, “all words ever spoken by human beings” could be stored in approximately 5 exabytes of data.”

    Interestingly, Apple’s latest “Asset Guide” says:

    Important: When sending books with embedded audio or video content, keep in mind that the maximum file size for the .zip file is 2GB. For usability’s sake, the maximum recommended size is 500 MB. Larger files take longer to download and may become unwieldy on older devices.

    Note that this is all in re EPUB. I find no documentation in iTunes Connect yet.

  6. I find all of this talk about file size to be missing the main points.
    As regards downloading, remember the student would only do it once, at the start of term and can do so via a computer and broadband. No big deal.
    As regards multimedia, I repeat that for most subjects there is no need for extensive multimedia, so only a few of the eTextbooks would be so big.
    And last of all what really matters is whether these eTextbooks do the business.

    To me, right now it doesn’t like like they do or are likely to do in the near future. There is far too much emphasis being pit on multimedia when what students really want is straightforward eTextbooks with a few diagrams and basic photos. The rest can be developed as the hardware develops.

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