Apple has announced they're hosting an education-minded press conference on Thursday, January 19th. Everyone assumes it has something to do with textbooks, which are something that Steve Jobs was reportedly obsessed with re-imagining in the years before his death. Ars Technica seems to have the scoop on what Apple will be announcing this week:

While speculation has so far centered on digital textbooks, sources close to the matter have confirmed to Ars that Apple will announce tools to help create interactive e-books—the "GarageBand for e-books," so to speak—and expand its current platform to distribute them to iPhone and iPad users...authoring standards-compliant e-books (despite some promises to the contrary) is not as simple as running a Word document of a manuscript through a filter. The current state of software tools continues to frustrate authors and publishers alike, with several authors telling Ars that they wish Apple or some other vendor would make a simple app that makes the process as easy as creating a song in GarageBand.

If this program is easy enough for a layperson to use, this could be the thing that transforms e-books from simple reproductions of books into their own medium, replete with video, interaction, social networking, graphics, and text. I can imagine a number of uses for these kinds of e-books outside the standard academic context: Digital scrapbooking, for one, and new kinds of role-playing games. And because it's technology, I'm sure someone will manage to plug porn into it within the first five seconds of the product's release. This could be a big deal for publishing, or it might be something else entirely. (Or it could be the new Ping; it's important to remember that sometimes Apple screws the pooch, too.)