Caveat Emptor: I am about to make lots of generalizations about textbooks. I know full well that there are exceptions to some things in some books. But in my 15 years teaching history, I have yet to encounter a textbook that works well for me. You may love your textbook, and it may be perfect for you. I don't even like my textbook, and it doesn't work well for me.
I believe that history is, at its heart, a series of stories. Stories can teach lessons, entertain, inform, generate a response, be boring, and even be lesson-less. However, history textbooks don't tell good stories; they damp down all the controversy, take out the blood, sweat, toil and tears, use one person to represent whole groups of people, and in general, present everything as a done deal that was a good outcome for the "winners." There's the African proverb "Until lions have their own historians, stories of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter," which I like better than "victors write history," but the basic intent of both is the same: textbooks are the history of the victors. And they remind us, as Dave Barry mocked in his book Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort of History of the United States, that "women and minorities continued to make valuable contributions." Afterthoughts, stereotypes and condescension abound. And insomnia gets cured by all who read them.
Textbooks are expensive to make, expensive to buy, impossible to update, heavy to carry, limited to two dimensions, present one perspective and are governed by the political whims of whatever the largest states' Departments of Education think they should contain. They are boring, vanilla pieces of writing that contain mistakes and aren't even under the control of the ivory tower denizens who composed them originally. Some contain thorough research and are accompanied by supplemental materials that are somewhat useful, but most are spottily researched, and come with such intellectually stimulating items as fill in the blank/matching/lower order thinking worksheets that re-create the textbook page in even simpler form. Ultimately, if you are a teacher who uses those materials, you must know that your students simply copy off a friend just before class. If they are organized, they rotate the responsibilities among them...
So I don't like textbooks.
Sadly, the iPad doesn't yet help with this area of my classes. It allows me and my students to access the interwebs, and I do make use of the Wikipanion app to have students compare the contents of the textbook with the contents of Wikipedia and turn to a third party web source to adjudicate any discrepancies. I can have my students watch TED talks, PBS videos, and follow the news, blogs, and social media. Students can download items from iTunes U and podcasts that are free. So I can stitch together material, and I will eventually generate an ePub or my own iBook once it is populated enough, but for now it is a cumbersome process that relies on materials beyond my control.
Ah, but what about the new Apple textbook initiative and iBooks? Well, students would have to pay for anything out of iBooks. I currently can't buy books for them and then repossess them to pass along to other students in a subsequent year. (No rental licenses like there are for renting movies in iTunes...yet...) So even once Apple puts together its textbooks, I still will have to designate funds for the purchase of those items, and in terms of the mathematics of it all, iBook-based textbooks will end up being more expensive than the textbooks we currently use. (My current textbook cost is $90, and is on its 6th year of use...If I have to pay $15.99 per student per iBook per year, I won't really be saving anything over time, it just won't be a giant bill all at once.)
All I use a textbook for is to provide the students with a common platform of knowledge. I never use it in class; they read it at home, at night, on their own so they can come into the classroom with a body of information that will allow us to delve into the facets of the story that help: to explain our current world; to illustrate a problem that needed to be solved back then that resonates with a problem we have today; to provide an important comparison to another story from another place; or to help describe how something has changed as time has gone by. The iPad makes the in-class activities happen in new and effective ways, and it can help with the at-home portion of my process; it just doesn't do that smoothly and efficiently. Yet.