Rod Dreher

owsleyipad.jpgI had to go to an Apple store today to solve my home wi-fi connectivity problems. While there, I had to take a look at the iPad. Prior to this visit, I couldn’t really see the point of the thing. The iPhone I get (and I love mine). A laptop I get (and I love mine). But why this thing?
Well, I tell you, you hold one in your hand, and fool around with it for a couple of minutes, and it all makes perfect sense. Really, this is a marvelous thing.
I have never been interested in e-book readers; the screen on the Kindle isn’t crisp enough or bright enough for me. But the iPad book reader is terrific. Very, very easy on the eyes. (Go to the iBook portion of the iPad Tour for a short video). And reading the newspaper on the iPad is an unanticipated pleasure. It’s more … newspapery, somehow, than reading the same on a standard computer. (Check out this ubergizmo video showing you what reading a newspaper is like on the iPad). The day I get an iPad is the day I cancel my New York Times subscription. (Actually, the Times will by then start to charge for online access, which I’ll happily pay, and cancel the home delivery of the print product). Watching video on the thing is terrific, too. What a pleasure to lie in bed or sit in an airplane seat and watch a movie on the thing. It’s surprisingly light, too — only 1.5 pounds. Quite portable, much more so than my laptop.
For all that, there was not much chance of buying one today. I’d rather wait till month’s end to buy one with 3G capacity. And I’ll wait until a future model comes out with a camera on the front for Skype video conversations. I hear that there’s an app available that will let you use your iPhone in conjunction with the iPad for these Skype conversations, but I dunno, sounds complicated. For me, though, the chief deal-killer was the virtual keyboard. It’s pretty hard to use; I’m a fast typer, but it made me feel like a dancer forced to wear a pair of shoes two sizes too small. I suppose you could get used to it, but … why? True, for only $69, you can buy a normal-size keyboard to plug into the dock at the base, and you’re in business. But in that case … why buy an iPad when you could get a laptop?
Even so, I’d bet there’s an iPad in my future. If I needed the keyboard to work on documents around the house, it wouldn’t be so hard to keep one near to hand. If I were taking the iPad on a short trip, or just using it for reading books and newspapers, the cramped virtual keyboard would suffice. The reason I say that holding the iPad takes you a long way toward buying one is that it feels so light in your hands, and with a few improvements, you can easily imagine it becoming as indispensable to your daily life as an iPhone is for many of us. But not just yet, not for me, anyway.
Any of you have an iPad? What do you think?
UPDATE: A Dallas friend and reader of this blog sends the above photo of the savings bank her kids have set up toward the purchase of a family iPad. I guess that means we’ll have to do same here.
UPDATE.2: Salon’s Laura Miller goes in-depth explaining what I see as the virtues of the iPad for readers. As someone who is at the computer all day long, I especially like this:

So, while even before it went on sale Saturday the iPad was disparaged as a mere “media consumption” device, that description is exactly what piqued my interest. I know that my laptop can do just about everything the iPad can, but it’s not designed to be curled up with at the end of long day; it’s the long day’s main battleground. I find it hard to entirely relax with it, to enter a more receptive state of mind. Your desk at work can hold up a plate as effectively as the sidewalk table at your neighborhood cafe, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll feel as happy eating lunch there.

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