You kids can take your fancy iPads and get the hell off my lawn.
Yeah, you heard me. And yes, I do own one myself (I won it in a contest.) And while I like it, I just don’t, well, see the point. It’s sort of like a baby—it’s definitely shiny and pretty (and expensive) and makes cute little sounds, only it lacks the long-term payoff of growing into someone who can clean the house or mow the lawn.
If you own a TV, you’ve seen the commercials for all of the life-changing apps you can download for your iPad. Check into your flights! Buy coffee! Read the newspaper! Read a book! Get directions to the new hipster pet store! I did have fun exploring the app store and tweeting from the iPad. It's hard not to enjoy yourself when you're holding a shiny gadget. But I kept finding myself thinking, “This would be faster and easier if I had a keyboard. And if the screen stood up on its own.” Boy, they really should invent something like that. (Hint: They already have. It's a laptop.)
Apps are another issue. Maybe it’s just the OCD, picky personalities of tech nerds, but most apps, even from big names like The New York Times, have low reviews (2 out of 5 stars). And not just because the Times is an evil, left-leaning newspaper—most reviews talk about the bad interface, the constant crashes, the perpetual need for updates and reinstalls.
And while the iPad has been heralded as the savior of reading, how about the fact that you can’t see the screen in direct sunlight? I don’t know about you, but if I bought a newspaper or a book and the clerk told me, “Oh, but you won’t be able to read this in the sun. It’s a vampire book,” I’d ask for my money back. If the iPad is truly the ultimate in portability and convenience, why does it seem so lacking in those areas, especially when compared to the thing it’s supposed to be replacing?
Even the iPad accessories are a crapshoot. And, like a kid, the iPad requires a bunch of pricey accessories. It needs screen protectors (which, by the way, are super expensive and aren’t endorsed by Apple, because they can destroy the iPad screen), USB cameras, stylish yet protective cases. And the reviews for all this stuff are low, too, making it so that even getting my iPad ready to leave the house for the first time has been a frustrating and time-consuming process. I spent more time looking at iPad cases than I spent choosing a college. Everything’s either ugly but does an OK job of protecting the iPad, or it’s nice-looking but there’s a weird, minor quirk that makes your iPad fall out every now and then. Let me shake my cane in the air again and say: This isn’t an issue with a book or magazine. Can you imagine? “This was a good novel, but the back cover sometimes catches on fire as you read.” “This looks and is shaped like a beautiful book, but the inside is just blank pages.”
Most tech accessories are produced by people who are looking to make a buck off the latest trend. It’s not like a car, where companies have spent decades perfecting the steering and seat adjustment. Maybe these first iPads and iPad accessories are like the first Fords and first seat belts. In 20 years, I’m sure it will all run a lot smoother. And, I hope, they’ll also be a lot less expensive.
But I also I predict that print is going to make resurgence. It probably won’t be in time to save the current industry; Borders is already bankrupt and Barnes & Noble isn’t faring much better. But it’s not too hard to imagine the pitch for Book™: “Imagine, your very own 355-page novel that you can hold in your hand. Take it anywhere, even to the beach. Use a bookmark to keep your place. And, when you’re done, give it to a friend or display it in your home.”
I know, I know. I sound like the guy said the Internet would never catch on. But here’s what the Internet was that the iPad isn’t: New. And it changed everything. But, for the average consumer, the iPad isn’t replacing anything. I still have to have a smart phone. I still have to have a computer. The iPad doesn’t do anything that much better than either of those two devices.
But, gee, it sure is shiny.
(Disclaimer: I'm just a consumer. I don't give power-point presentations or compose music or prescribe medications, so those applications of the iPad are useless to me. I'm also a bit biased because I worked in a bookstore for a long time and am a little obsessed with buying books, and people who say, "Ooh! Now you can throw your books away and use the iPad!" are really annoying. But I am curious to know why you love your iPad and how it has changed your life for the better. Tell me.)
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