Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) is launching a new version of its iBooks software, tailored to present vivid, interactive textbooks for elementary and high school students on the iPads.

IBooks 2 will be able to display books with videos and other interactive features, the company announced Thursday at an event at an event at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

“Education is deep in Apple’s DNA and iPad may be our most exciting education product yet. With 1.5 million iPads already in use in education institutions, including over 1,000 one-to-one deployments, iPad is rapidly being adopted by schools across the US and around the world,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, in a statement.

“Now with iBooks 2 for iPad, students have a more dynamic, engaging and truly interactive way to read and learn, using the device they already love,” he added.

It’s not clear how Apple plans to get it front of students, however, since textbooks are subject to lengthy approval processes by states. Also, few students have iPads, which start at $499.

Apple also revealed iBook Author, an application for Macs that lets people create electronic textbooks.

Major textbook publishers have been making electronic versions of their products for years. Until recently, there hasn’t been any hardware suitable to display the books, so e-textbooks have had little impact. PCs are too expensive and cumbersome to be good e-book machines for students. Dedicated e-book readers like the Kindle have small screens and can’t display color.

Tablet computers like the iPad, however, are both portable and capable of showing textbooks in vivid color.

“With support for great new features including gorgeous, fullscreen books, interactive 3D objects, diagrams, videos and photos, the iBooks 2 app will let students learn about the solar system or the physics of a skyscraper with amazing new interactive textbooks that come to life with just a tap or swipe of the finger,” Apple said.

“With its fast, fluid navigation, easy highlighting and note-taking, searching and definitions, plus lesson reviews and study cards, the new iBooks 2 app lets students study and learn in more efficient and effective ways than ever before.”

Apple is also setting up a textbook section its iTunes store.

Among the launch titles will be two high school textbooks — Biology and Environmental Science — from Pearson PLC and five from McGraw-Hill. They will cost $15 or less, said Phil Schiller, Apple’s head of marketing.

Schools will be able to buy the books for its students and issue redemption codes to them, he said.

According to biographer Walter Isaacsson, company founder Steve Jobs in the last year of his life was working to radically change the textbook market. At a dinner in early 2011, Jobs told News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch that the paper textbooks could be made obsolete by the iPad. Jobs wanted to circumvent the state certification process for textbook sales by having Apple release textbooks for free on the tablet computer.

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