So the newest gadget from Apple was unveiled the other day, an electronic tablet/reader called the iPad. I have to say, I’m a bit disappointed in the name. I thought iSlate was much cooler, and iPad is just a little too close to iPod for my liking, but maybe they were just trying to keep the alliteration thing going with all the P’s from iPod to iPhone to iPad. Coincidentally, there has been a large influx in jokes relating to feminine hygiene product which they have left themselves wide open for. I would’ve thought Apple was a little smarter than that.
But name notwithstanding, the new tablet was, about as I expected, not the end all, be all of technology, but another stepping stone on the road that I’m sure will evolve over time, as have their other products. Even still, there are those out there who continue to declare that readers like this one will save publishing. Well, unless the mainstream press is getting a commission on how many times the name iPad has shown up in print or on the web in the past week, I’m not feeling it. I pointed out here a few weeks ago my feelings on the subject, and actually seeing the product and reading some of its specs have done nothing to dissuade me. In fact, to me it seems the iPad has given more thought to presenting media like tv shows, movies, music and web surfing than to reading any sort of digitized periodicals. It just doesn’t seem that high on Steve Jobs list of things to appeal to.
But that doesn’t matter, because, like all technology, it’s just a tool, a platform to be used for whatever ends creative minded people can come up with for it. If publishers think that now, suddenly, they can slap their slightly altered print material on one of these deals and people will line up to buy, they are far more desperate than even I believe (and I think they’re pretty desperate). One more time, the future belongs to those who aren’t held back by the trappings of what came before. Those who don’t have to maintain vast, bloated old-school businesses like much of the print industry will be in a much better position to find ways to take advantage of this stuff going forward. And that’s as it should be.
The iPad (poorly named or not) seems to be a pretty cool little device with definite possibilities down the road. The price is still too high, even though $500 for a base model was less than I was expecting. And the functionality is far less than it will need to be, but that will change, I’m sure. But is it a savior for ailing publishers? Not a chance.
By the way, if you’d ever like to read the single most backward, asinine piece of writing on the subject of media and its digital issues, check this guy out. For a reporter, he pretty clearly doesn’t have the least bit of an understanding in the fundamental dynamics of publishing, print or otherwise, nor does he have any clue about what it is that people have been paying for all these years, and what they haven’t. Just a little tip, if by some magical spell, publishers the world over could end all free content everywhere, they’d all be out of business in a year. It’s not the end-user cost of the products that matter, it’s what they do with that audience. Publishers are hurting not because they gave stuff away for free online (they’ve been giving stuff away much more expensively in print for as long as there’s been a press), it’s because they lost sight of the competition, took their products, employees and audiences for granted, and spent the past thirty years of so leeching every possible dollar they could up to the executive suite. No digital reader, no matter how many bells and whistles it has, is going to save this greedy, clueless brigade. It’s the next generation of companies that will save the industry. These old-guard guys are toast.