A while back, I predicted that the logical conclusion of the whole iTunes U thing would be eBooks on an iPod. It would, I think, dramatically impact the textbook market (for the better) and open up all kinds of opportunities for alternative content (including free/libre content). Well, Engadget claims that the day is nearing:
We tend to field a lot of inside information here at Engadget HQ, but we've gotten not one, but two bits from separate, trustworthy insiders that Apple's not satisfied merely vending Audible's books-on-digital-audio solution. With the iRex iLiad and Sony PRS-500 Portable Reader both right around the corner, is it possible the next iPod might catch the eBook bug? We'd say the possibility is very real, since according to a source at a major publishing house, they were just ordered to archive all their manuscripts -- every single one -- and send them over to Apple's Cupertino HQ. A separate trusted source let us know that the next iPod will have a substantial amount of screen real estate (as we'd all suspected), as well as a book reading mode that pumps up the contrast and drops into monochrome for easy reading. It's no e-ink, sure, but a widescreen iPod would be well suited for the purpose, and according to our source, the books you'd buy (presumably through iTunes) won't have an expiration -- kind of like Apple-bought music, as well, but contradictory to the movie rental scheme we've heard rumored.
If Apple does this, it will bring eBooks (finally!) into the mainstream very quickly. And just as importantly, it creates an instant commodity distribution mechanism via iTMS/iTunes U.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed.