It seems like everybody has something to say about Apple's iPad, so in the interests of complete redundancy I thought I'd chime in.
I should say up-front that I've never seen a real, live iPad, have only a vague idea of what it can do, and have no intentions of buying one. In other words, I'm much like all the other ill-informed pundits out there.
So let me begin with a confession: I love books of the dead tree variety. I actually collect books (I've just finished reading a first edition of Steinbeck's The Moon is Down), and I'm currently wading through all of Dickens' novels after buying a used set from the 1900s. So the iPad phenom got me thinking: what if things got reversed, and in a parallel universe the iPad came before the invention of books?
I get that the iPad can stream video, host a bewildering range of applications, and can make pretty good buttered toast. It's a multi-functional device, but its primary use-case is to provide a new platform for books and book-like content. The ability to meld multimedia content is pretty cool, as is the ability to bring the conventions of Web content to the format of the book. But as a portable tool for conveying a linear narrative, it has a bunch of issues. There's the bed-and-beach problem (you want to read a skinny computer in either location?). There's the drop-and-dry problem (I might handle my Steinbeck carefully, but a paperback is pretty indestructible). There's the share-and-sell problem (I'm not enthralled by some of the lock-in issues around the content I might buy). And have I mentioned battery life? In my parallel universe, if you had an iPad and no books, I think some latter-day Gutenberg might invent them anyway.
I know I'm a Luddite on this. My guess is, the current iPad will be a complete flop but some later incarnation will be a wild success. And books will become history. I have no idea how this will change what we read - would Steinbeck and Dickens exist in an iPad age?