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Apple's 'Bliss' e-textbook project inspired by Al Gore's 'Our Choice'

Apple on Thursday will unveil a new digital textbook project internally code-named "Bliss" that was inspired by Al Gore's "Our Choice" iOS e-book, AppleInsider has learned.

The details come from a tip sent earlier in the week by an anonymous source. AppleInsider could not initially confirm any of the details and declined to publish a story.

However, on Tuesday The Wall Street Journal published a story corroborating many of the details in the original tip, including the fact that Roger Rosner, Apple's vice president of development for iWork, is apparently overseeing the project.

The person who contacted AppleInsider indicated that Apple's Internet software chief, Eddy Cue, is responsible for the distribution side of the new e-textbook initiative. But Rosner is said to be in charge of development of the editor used to create digital textbooks, as well as the reading software that will allow students and teachers to view the files.

The person said the internal code-name for the project is "Bliss," and said the software will allow publishers to make textbooks more interactive.

One of the primary sources of inspiration for the project was said to be an e-book released by former U.S. vice president and Apple board member Al Gore. Last year, he and Push Pop Press released "Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis" on the iOS App Store, and the interactive title was met with a great deal of praise.

Push Pop Press, founded by former Apple engineers Mike Matas and Kimon Tsinteris, abandoned its initial plans to shake up the e-books market with interactive iOS applications, such as their collaboration with Gore, after the company was acquired by Facebook last summer.

Unlike Apple's own iBooks app, Push Pop Press had planned to develop interactive e-book content using the native Cocoa Touch development tools for iOS. iBooks uses the open EPUB format, making Apple's existing e-books more akin to self-contained Web apps.

While Apple could adopt the "native app" strategy used by Push Pop Press, it's more likely it will continue to use Web technologies for ebooks, potentially expanding the feature set of its existing EPUB support, or developing a new HTML5-based format similar to Amazon's proprietary KF8.

Apple has already developed its own internal tools for creating interactive, Web-based content for the iPhone and iPad, which it then adapted to deploy iTunes Extras and iTunes LP bonus content on movies and albums in 2009, first within iTunes and then on Apple TV.

The company has since released iAd Producer to allow third party developers to build similarly dynamic web based content for use in the company's mobile advertising network. Apple's iTunes, iBooks and iAd initiatives are all managed under the direction of Cue, the company's head of Internet Software and Services.

Rumors that Apple plans to unveil new tools to craft interactive textbooks were corroborated earlier Wednesday by Bloomberg. That report claimed that Apple's new software will carry a specific focus on creating digital textbooks for children in grades kindergarten through 12.

Apple's education-related media event will take place on Thursday at 10 a.m. Eastern, 7 a.m. Pacific from New York City's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.