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The iPad And Newspapers

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By Doug Thompson

doug_thompsonThe iPad doesn’t excite me as much as it should, considering that you’ll be reading this column on one within a few years if anybody’s still reading me at all.

This is the first “cool” device I’ve seen that passes the real test, at least for men, on whether it might replace the printed newspaper product: Can you take a seat in a restroom stall and read from it?

Pardon the crudity of that remark, folks, but you know there’s truth there. The device passes a similar test for women: Can you put it in a purse? It would have to be a good-sized purse, but it passes.

I’m not fascinated because the iPad is, at heart, a $500 laptop that you don’t have to fold out. The revolutionary thing here is that the keypad is touch-screen. It makes the device simple and elegant — which really is what’s important.

Aircraft designers have a saying — What looks right, is. The iPad looks right. The only reason I’m not thrilled is because I’m still a gamer. I want horsepower. The video card in my desktop’s not much smaller than this gadget.

However, I’m also a reader. I’ve seriously considered downloading audiobooks into an iPod. The only thing that’s stopped me is, I don’t own an iPod. I’ve also read quite a bit from books on the Internet, although I can’t claim to have read an entire book yet. If I get an iPad, I will.

Try finding Percy Scott’s “Fifty Years in the Royal Navy” at your local library. For that matter, try lugging around “War and Peace” in print.

My biggest intellectual accomplishment is still probably reading the unabridged “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” Any one of the three volumes in the version I read were thicker and weighed more than this gadget.

I’m sure the usual “mainstream media is dying” announcements will come with this new device. Don’t count on it. People say the iPod killed the music business. Clearly, it did not — it’s killing the CD manufacturing business. Those two are not the same.

I’ve said for a lot of years — about 20 years, now that I think about it — that if anybody ever found a way to make something people can read that removes the need for a printed product, it will relieve my business of its biggest expense — producing and distributing a physical product.

Let’s assume that the newspaper industry is a dying concern led entirely by a bunch of hidebound, irredeemably stupid dinosaurs. OK. Steve Jobs of Apple is not one of them. The generation that will succeed him is not either.

Guess what, folks? These harbingers of a new age want to make money.

They’re not going to make as much money as they want just by selling hardware that costs less than a PlayStation 3 when it was introduced.

They’re going to want to charge for content. They’re going to want content you consider as something worth paying for.

I’m not implying that content I produce is worth paying for. This publication is not called the “Free Weekly” for nothing. However, I can reliably produce. Let’s take a quick look at how much stuff I pour into the Web.

Besides this column, there’s about half the editorials that run in the paper every week. There’s a column of mine every Sunday. There was a blog during the last regular legislative session, and could easily be one again someday. There’s the last episode of “Arkansas Week,” where I appeared on the panel.

Here’s a bulletin folks. I took less than an hour to write the column you’re reading now. This old stegosaurus outproduces just about any blogger you can name. And that’s just the stuff I do for a living. Look up my guide to using cavalry archers in “Medieval Total War II” sometime. Long before that, there was my guide to the Mongols in “Age of Empires II: Age of Kings.” There’s quite a few history forums that have my musings on them, and a few comments on other things.

I do this for work. I do this for fun. I do this a lot.

My Facebook page is largely neglected — mainly because I’m too busy pouring content everywhere else.

The iPad doesn’t scare me at all.

Please, please, please, Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear. Please don’t throw me in the briar patch.

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