The latest scuttlebutt on Apple’s big education announcement next week: the company is venturing into textbooks.

An industry insider confirmed to the New York Times that Apple will, in fact, be partnering with textbook publishers. No new devices will be shown, the source says, but Apple will discuss their new digital textbook business next week.

“Join us for an education announcement in the Big Apple,” is all the invitation from Apple says. Mashable will be reporting from the event at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City on Jan. 19.

The location makes sense for a textbook announcement; New York City is a hot spot for textbook publishers. But will cash-strapped college students pay for digital books when studies show that renting paper books is cheaper? The same report did show, however, that digital books are typically cheaper than new paperback books.

In addition to the price, the majority of students prefer printed books, according to another study. So Apple has its work cut out for it. The company will need to partner with enough publishers, and make its digital books cheap and good looking enough to trump even used and rental print editions.

Textbook giants McGraw-Hill and Pearson already have a stake in the digital book realm. Still, aligning their companies with a brand such as Apple and the massive market presence that goes with it — particularly in some Newsstand-like venture — could make digital textbooks soar.

Newsstand increased revenues by more than 200% for at least one magazine publisher (Conde Nast). Other New York publishers will have taken note. History has shown that when Apple jumps into an industry — music, movies, phone apps, books and magazines — the prices drop, and Apple dominates the market.

Could affordable digital textbooks be the preferred choice of college students in the near future? What do you think about Apple getting into the textbook game? Let us know in the comments.

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This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Mashable as a publication.

Aaron Stibel serves as senior vice president of technology of Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp, the leading provider of credit building and credibility solutions for businesses. He holds a BS in computer science from Johns Hopkins University.

There are a few ubiquitous projects that most computer science students remember: Hello world, the Fibonacci recursion sequence and the reverse Polish notation calculator, for example.

No project is more annoying to me than the dreaded MS Access database project. In my day, the project came in the form of a CD catalog. Now it is more likely to be an MP3 catalog or sometimes a college course catalog. Whatever the form, this project is typically a disappointing response to the job interview question, “Do you have any database experience?”

Technology moves quickly. I tell new college graduates to enjoy that feeling of knowing a technology that eludes your supervisor — because it won’t last. When a new crew of graduates comes along in a couple of years, they’ll be showing off languages that make AJAX and Ruby seem like COBOL and Pascal.

Our dependency on databases and data warehousing has exploded, mainly because storage has become a relatively negligible line item on IT budgets. Instead, software is the storage, retrieval, transformation and visualization of data. C-Level executives who don’t know Java Beans from coffee beans are now talking OLAP Cubes.

So with databases being part of technology and high-value businesses, colleges must start including databases all over the curriculum.

Of the top five highest-rated computer science programs — Carnegie Mellon, MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley, and Cornell — none include a database course as part of the 2011 undergraduate degree requirement. Worse, the top four schools only offer a single database course as an undergraduate engineering elective. Graduate-level programs offer few additional options.

It never fails to amaze me how little database experience college graduates have. Most have no SQL experience, and I haven’t interviewed a single candidate who can design an ERD, properly tune a query or write complex SQL. This lack of qualifications is a major hindrance in today’s data-dependent world. Yet it doesn’t need to be. A single mandatory class would suffice.

My wish list of database requirements for a college graduate would be selfishly long. At the very least, however, graduates should be experts at SQL and have exposure to PL/SQL or T-SQL. A SQL tuning class that covers indexing and proper design would be great as well. Students should know what an ERD is, and how to design data architectures as well as they tackle data structures. Ask a software engineer what he uses more: a Red-Black Tree or a Table (the answer is obvious).

It has been 40 years since SQL was invented. It’s time to add database courses to the mandatory curriculum. It’s time to banish the dreaded MS Access project. It’s time to add data to the core theory, applications, and systems concentrations.

Image courtesy of Flickr, lu_lu

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