The new Apple iPad

Meh.

I’m tempted to leave this post at that, just a single word. But if I’m honest there is more to this iPad thing than that. Fundamentally, Apple have gone to great lengths and enormous fanfare to release what is essentially a big iPhone without the phone or the camera. Sure, it’s a swish looking thing – Apple products always are. And the interface would be awesome, just like the iPhone, because Apple know how to meld man (or woman) and machine.

But is this iPad really anything spectacular? The thing that annoyed me the most watching a news program last night was the closing comments on the brief coverage of the iPad launch:

“The new iPad will allow people to read books electronically.”

They made this sound like it was a new thing. Like we’d never read an ebook before. Seriously, Apple are masters at convincing people that the emperor is wearing a fine ermine robe. I read ebooks regularly on my iPhone. The Kindle is going gangbusters in the US and has recently rolled out internationally. My books sell better in ebook formats than print formats by several orders of magnitude. And so on and so on.

So now, due to the massive media arse licking that Steve Jobs always seems to elicit, there will be thousands of people thinking that Apple has made ebooks a reality at last. Good grief, they’ll cry, are we living in the future? (Well, it is 2010, but still no flying fucking cars).

To be optimistic about it, regardless of how annoying it is, the iPad being touted as the new thing in publishing is good for writers. It’s not the new thing in publishing by a long way. We’ve been hammering out the pioneer trail through digital books and all associated stuff for several years now. But, Apple does attract its fanboys and fangirls. The latest Apple device is the must have gadget every time. The marketing behind it is terrifying.

When I heard that Stephen Fry had endorsed the iPad with talk of how great it was to use I felt the Earth shift on its axis. When Fry, the God-Emperor of Twitter, and Jobs, the Witch-King of Technology, combine forces, the future of humanity is theirs to toy with.


Steve Jobs, mind-controlling the masses

But, this can only be a good thing. Publishing is going digital. It’s a simple as that. You might remember this post I made back in August. It’s just a matter of how it will happen. Print books will still exist – Print On Demand technology will be the new vanguard of print – and speciality editions will still be popular with bibliophiles like me. It’s just a case of what becomes the standard for digital publishing.

The Kindle and its e-ink brethren tried to lead the way taking electronic reading from a computer screen to a hand held electronic book. As similar as possible to paper in every way. Then handheld devices like the iPhone shattered the calm of the library.

Sure, a Kindle is a great ebook reader, but an iPhone is a great ebook reader, and a phone and, most importantly, a web portal. The iPad has taken that concept and made it bigger. Too big, in my opinion, but we’ll see if new physical sizes emerge – remember the iPod gave birth to the iPod Nano. I’d like to see an iPad Nano, halfway in size between an iPhone and the current iPad.

Anyway, the point is this. The iPad has full internet activity and a brilliant user interface. You can go straight to your news media source, read the top stories, click on a picture to see the video, listen to the latest single from Current Pop Sensation And The Plagiarists and so on. It’s an interactive media source along with being an ebook reader. That’s where the allure lies. Remember the post I linked above where I talked about convergence. That’s what is needed.

For me the iPhone offers that convergence and the iPad is just an iPhone that won’t fit in my pocket. And it doesn’t have a phone or a camera. And, true to Apple form, there’s no USB connectivity, no expandable memory card ports, no access to the workings of it and a truly shite battery life. But it’s the latest thing from Apple, it’s slick and you feel all Star Trek when you use it. People will buy it. When they do, due to very clever and aggressive action from Apple with regard to getting publishers on side, they’ll suddenly see ebooks as the future. Not because ebooks are the future, not because we’ve been saying that and making them the future for the last few years, but because Steve Jobs said so. All hail the Techno Messiah. It’s a little bit sickening, but what the fuck. More people will be buying ebooks. For writers, embracing the digital publishing revolution, that’s no bad thing. It’s also going to shake up the podcasting and vodcasting world, so watch out for explosions on that front as well.

I won’t be getting an iPad. Not least because it sounds like an electronic monthly item for women, but mainly because it doesn’t really offer anything new yet. It just offers what’s already there in a bigger format. But it won’t be long before the iPad and competitive examples are as ubiquitous as the iPod. Think back to 1995 and going to buy the latest album on CD. Could you imagine having your entire music collection in digital form on something smaller than a pack of gum in your pocket back then? Now it’s the norm. It won’t be long before commuter trains are filled with people holding flat shiny screens, flicking their finger across them now and then to ellicit an electronic swoosh as they turn the “page”. And that’s only the beginning.

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18 thoughts on “The new Apple iPad

  1. Up to now, ebook readers have simply mimicked the book experience. What the iPad has the potential to do is transform ebooks into a thing of the media age.

    What that will look like? I don’t know. But it won’t look like a book. Anymore than than a movie looks like a flip book.

  2. This idea that people will think Apple have invented the ebook is similar to the iphone launch. The number of people I spoke to who said, “Wow, now you can have internet on your phone!”, just like people had been doing for some time.

    But it would seem they did it better. Or marketed it better. Or something. They certainly made smartphones (not that I like the term) more mainstream.

  3. My first reaction was “jumped-up iTouch” but someone else pointed out to me that it’s the apps that really make the iTouch and iPhone what they are. So perhaps we won’t see the full capabilities of the iPad until people start writing apps specifically for it.

    I haven’t used a Kindle or any other ereader, but I have used my iTouch to read and I’d struggle to do so for long. It will be interesting to see if things do change and if this prompts publishers etc to create different things for these sorts of devices. And whether people begin to expect different things. Personally I like a “clean” reading experience without too many bells and whistles; e.g. I hate reading newspapers online and having videos automatically load and play while I read the story. But perhaps I’d feel differently if I had bought a device specifcally for that purpose?
    Maybe I am in the minority and haven’t tranisitioned yet since obviously my computer is already completely capable of such things; I just like it to mirror my hard copy experience in a lot of ways.

    I will be looking on with interest to see what does happen in terms of how people use the iPad and how the next generations of iPads develop.

  4. Abi (Bothersome Words) – I think it’s an example of us hanging onto the old ways! 😉 Imagine the generation entering their teens now – the iPad kind of experience will be the norm for them. And we’ll cross over eventually. I resisted CDs for ages because I loved vinyl. Now I’m an iPod convert!

    Adrian – Pure gold!

  5. Yeah, you’re right, Alan. I think I compartmentalise though – sometimes I want my all-singing, all-dancing techno-wonder… but I like the option to go old school and simple, too.

  6. Steve Job’s revolutionary iTablet will eventually grow after the first pumped up time during it’s launch. The A4 chip and Mac’s potential to fix defections will help to make the product a success story in time.

  7. I had similar thoughts about the iPad. I agree that Jobs does a good, er, job of sounding like Apple just invented a whole bunch of stuff that have been around for ages. To their defence, they do seem to package stuff quite well.

    The main thing for me is the parallels between iPad v1 and iPhone v1. I didn’t want the iPhone v1 just like I don’t wan’t the iPad v1. I have no doubt though that I am very much going to want the iPad v2 just like I really love the iPhone 3G/3GS.

    iPad being launched missing many obvious features, I think, is par for the course for Apple. They will sell people an iPad now, sell them a bunch of peripherals and then sell them a brand new iPad in a year from now when they release the version with the camera, multi tasking, better battery life, phone functionality etc.

    And if they can sell you their product twice why shouldn’t they?

    Anyway, I also wrote a blog post along those lines: http://onefuriousllama.wordpress.com/2010/01/29/and-this-is-why-i-am-not-interested-in-the-ipad-version-1-0/

  8. I agree with the phone comparison. I do the ebook, internet, phone, video, etc. things all on my Android phone. The only argument I’ve been able to understand for using the bigger readers was when someone told me that reading the small screen gives them a headache. Still, the screen in the picture is so HUGE. I can’t imagine carrying that thing around with me. Also, I love the convenience of having EVERYTHING on one device, not a device for everything (except ebooks), and then a separate device for ebooks.

  9. Shawn – you’re right, it’s standard practice for Apple. The reason they shouldn’t do it is because it’s the ultimate douchebaggery!

    ganymeder – exactly! A paperback size version of the iPad would be a great intermediary device for all reading and web surfing, etc. without being a behemoth to carry around. That thing is like the slab from 2001: A Space Oddyssey. Of course, the smaller iPad would still need camera, expansion ports and so on to be a really solid device.

  10. Yeah, hubby’s been showing me ereader devices that open, which would mimic the feel of opening a book also. I understand that appeal.The sound of electronic pages swooshing though? I actually have a reader on my phone like that (Libris-lite), the pages look like pages and you see them ‘flip’ and hear the swooshing sound, and after the initial novelty wears off it’s actually a bit annoying. I end up turning the volume off my phone when I read those ebooks. But seeing the turning pages is cool and a little surreal.

  11. When you can edit your Google Docs text documents on it, then they’ll be onto something.

    I was initially excited about the iWorks for cheap, but the more I think about it, the more I think it should be able to edit documents and spreadsheets out of the box.

    I can read my docs on my Touch through Google Docs or Dropbox (haven’t decided what I’m settling on to use) but I can’t edit them.

    That pretty iBooks demonstration looks neat but those white backgrounds on a bright OLED screen will burn your eyes out. I read off my Touch with gray text on a black background, same way I’ve been reading off my Palm TX for years now.

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