Well, yesterday brought two big speeches. There was that one late in the evening, something about politics, or the economy…I’m not sure really, it was late. And then there was the big one, right in the middle of the day, the one that introduced something truly new and innovative. I’m talking, of course, about the introduction of the long awaited iPad.

Okay, I’m going to be adult and avoid making jokes about the name as everyone else seems to be doing. But the fact is, in many ways this announcement really did overshadow the President’s State of the Union address. As I observed (and tweeted about) yesterday, the number one searched-for phrase on Google yesterday was about the rumored Apple tablet. On top of that, there were no less than three additional entries regarding the announcement of the device. Coming in at a humble number six, was something about the State of the Union speech.

I’m not going to read into this. It seems like the kind of information that is supposed to mean something but probably doesn’t say anything that anybody couldn’t have guessed. In the time since both announcements I have taught two classes at two different institutions and in both cases the majority of the students were ambivalent about both speeches, with just a bit more interest in the Apple one.

Not one to buck the trend, however, here I choose to consider the iPad.

It’s no secret that I love gadgets. I held off for quite some time to buy an iPhone and it wasn’t easy. Ultimately, the decision to get one felt like a moral decision: I pride myself on being the kind of person that is content with what I have, but i couldn’t control the gadget-lust that the iPhone induced in me. But more than an electronic toy fanatic, I’m a big reader. So, as you might imagine, I’ve followed the ebook trend with great interest for several years, always setting benchmarks for when I thought I’d know that the perfect device has arrived. That it hasn’t yet, according to my summation, means that I’ve been able to ward off the kind of all encompassing desire that the iPhone caused.

When e-ink was in its infancy (arguably, now, it’s still only its toddler phase) I insisted that in order for an ebook reader to catch on, it must really feel like reading paper feels. Later, I proclaimed that a successful ebook reader must allow for me to, at least virtually, scribble in the margins, dog-ear pages, etc.

In many ways the products that have come out, most popularly from Amazon, but also notably from Sony and Barnes and Noble, have addressed several if not all of these concerns. And now, there’s the iPad. This thing is certainly much more than an ebook reader, in the same way that my iPhone is more than a phone. But, one of the major selling points, if Steve Jobs’ excited announcement is to be believed, is that is a step up from the Kindle.

Is it, though? I wasn’t alone several years ago in thinking that e-ink was a necessary component of an ebook reader. But now, with all the hype that surrounded the iPad before it came out, and the buzz that will continue and intensify as we wait for the actual product to arrive, nobody seems to care that the books you’ll be able to purchase from the iBookstore will be rendered, albeit beautifully, on a backlit LCD screen. What of the eyestrain that we were all so worried about? Can someone really sit for hours and read on a bright screen?

I’m interested in some of your thoughts, if I could be so bold as to solicit them. Are you going to go in for this thing? As a reader would you devour novels off of it? Should I get one? Will you buy it for me?

There are two months before the first of these devices will hit the street…in the meantime, let the questioning and speculation reach its due crescendo!

About The Author

Jonathan D. Fitzgerald

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