Ten Things You Should Know About the iPad in the Real World
People have said many things about the iPad. It has been called everything from “revolutionary” to “overblown.” It is both. It is most certainly a unique addition to the myriad choices we now have for exchanging digital information, and it has been so well received that it has already made a huge impact on the publishing market. Magazine and book publishers are scrambling to release new products that effectively exploit the many possibilities devices like the iPad open up for an interactive experience between the device, the user, the publisher, the author, advertisers...the possibilities seem endless.
The first thing people say to me when they see my iPad is that they want one. What is interesting about that response is that it comes even before they have had a chance to really look at it. They want it because so many people have told them how cool it is. They like the idea of the iPad almost as much as the device itself.
Which may seem strange in light of the fact that, (a) few people ever say that about a netbook and (b) when the iPad was introduced there was a general feeling that it was likely to be a dismal failure.
Q: Who would want to pay $500-$850 for a big iPhone?
A: Millions of people would.
Apple did a couple of things wrong (no camera and no SD card slot), but it did so many things right that it has established a totally new market for publishers. The screen is gorgeous, the speed is fast enough to make it extremely useful, and the total experience of using the device is very satisfying. Like the iPhone, it’s simple and useful. It just works.
Publishers were very concerned that a backlit screen would not be good enough for reading. ePaper is brighter, much easier to read in high light (absolutely true) and overall a better way of delivering materials we have previously read in printed form (not so true). The spacious and sharp iPad screen delivers an experience far beyond what the current ePaper screens can provide, and the iOS has been designed to give the user control and interactivity that products like the Kindle and Nook simple can’t touch (literally, since the iPad touch screen is a huge part of that experience).
Here’s what I have found after a few months with my iPad.
1. It will not replace my Macbook Pro. I do too many things on that device that simply can’t be done on an iPad. But for some folks, it really can be a laptop replacement.
2. It is great for reading. I can download books from Amazon in seconds for less money than the printed version. I can make notes and underline to my heart’s content. Four of the five textbooks for my last course were available in Kindle version. It’s great for reading in bed at night, but it’s lousy for reading in sunlight. Yes, my beach scene is a fantasy, not a reality. I’d like to know if any of those glare-reducing screen covers actually work. Feel free to send me one to try out!
3. Web access over WiFi has been equal to my experience with my Mac. No Flash support has proven to be almost a non-issue in my experience. The huge number of iPads and iPod touches in circulation have required Web designers to work without it, and to be honest, many of the Flash applications that are used on the Web are more annoying than useful.
4. Using the iPad is basically a no-brainer. It works they way I expect it to work. There are a few tricks that may be unexpected. (It’s not terribly intuitive that pressing the “home” and “sleep” button simultaneously would create a screen shot, but it is a useful feature.) If you have ever used an iPhone or iPod Touch you know how intuitive they are, and you already know almost everything about how to use an iPad.
5. Pages is an extremely useful and capable word processor and the virtual keyboard is pretty darn useful and responsive, particularly when used in landscape mode where it’s nearly as large as a full-size keyboard.
6. Fingerprints are not a big issue. You need to have extremely greasy fingers for them to show up when the screen is on. I’ll grant you they look messy when the screen is off, and I do recommend getting a plastic screen protector, even if a bubble or tiny fleck of dust trapped under the protector can be annoying.
7. There are a whole lot of useful apps out there for free. There are also a lot of lame apps that people want money for. Websites that review apps are more helpful than the Apple app store for determining which ones to download, though the app store does have ratings and reviews. I’m hoping the app store will improve over time. Right now there are so many apps being added daily it’s hard to keep up, and it’s also easy for developers to get people to post positive reviews for products that don’t deserve them. Look for apps with a large number of positive reviews.
8. There are dozens of apps for free books. Many of them are attempts to sell you books, but there are literally thousands of free books out there, including hundreds of classics (re: public domain).
9. The number of Kindle and other e-book formatted titles is growing rapidly. You won’t find huge discounts on textbooks, but they ARE cheaper than the hard-copy versions. You are just beginning to see interactive photos, videos and links included in eBooks, which I expect will become standard fare over time. Remember all those books that include a CD-ROM or DVD? The iPad is much better.
10. Don’t forget audio books as part of the iPad features.
11. Oh yes, and music! And syncing! And calendars! And my Google and .mac address books!
Printers and publishers should not discount the impact the iPad is going to have on the marketplace. Folks will be insisting that anything they want to read be available in an electronic format that can be read AND INTERACTED WITH on the iPad. It will not be enough to convert textbooks to eBooks or magazines to PDFs that you can “leaf through.” These documents will soon almost be REQUIRED to have interactive content and absolutely must have Web links for more information. Readers will need to be able to “drill down” to get more content than the hard-copy version. And, oh yes, they’ll expect to pay less for it than they are currently paying for the hard-copy version. Digital age consumers expect more for less.
This “more for less” appetite will be filled by shared content, links to third-party sites and advertiser-supplied or paid-for content, and of course links to sites that are free-use already. Expect to see a significant rise in video production by former print publishers, a phenomenon we are already seeing.
None of this bodes well for traditional print production houses. It’s hard to tell exactly how many print magazines have opted to go “Web-only” in the past few years, but the number is not insignificant and it will rise steadily; perhaps exponentially.
It does bode well for video production houses and end users.