Since I started writing this, Apple has released the iPad. I’m not going to get into whether it’s revolutionary or not, but iPad does begin to address the issue of portability. It is lighter than a laptop, apparently has better resolution, and the availability of WiFi and 3G means that a user can access the Internet from almost anywhere. That’s all to the good.
The idea of the iPad isn’t entirely new. Back in the ’90s Apple released something called the Newton, which was a clunklier, less powerful version of the iPad. The Newton was a bust
It’s great to have something with the capability of the iPad. The issue isn’t whether or not the iPad replaces newspapers, because the method of delivery isn’t as important as what is delivered and who is delivering it. News on paper isn’t the issue. The critical question is what and who are behind the presentation of the information. What are the professional standards of the people sending out the information? What kind of vetting process do they use in editing what they present? Who are they? What kind of ethics do they adhere to?
Whether or not the iPad is the last word in electronic delivery of the news is less important than the answers to those questions despite the nostalgia that some readers–primarily older readers–have for the feel of paper between their fingers as they read the news.
In fact, electronic delivery solves a lot of the problems dogging the news industry by cutting overhead. If newspapers hadn’t been so naive and gullible about the Internet–especially the idea that everything should be free–they might have been able to make the transition from paper to digital presentation without hemorrhaging as many subscribers as they have. That’s all water over the dam at this point. What’s important is to find a way to preserve the institution of the news organization with all of its values, standards, practices and ethics regardless of how the news is delivered.
And, at the risk of saying the emperor has no clothes, it probably will mean that people will have to pay for it. Otherwise you will be getting what you pay for. And, as King Lear said, nothing will come of nothing