Will the iPad Push Paper to Extinction?

Well, probably not. Some critics have praised the Apple iPad for its speed, sleek design and the detail of the screen’s LED-backlit display. Others, like Gizmodo, have criticized the iPad’s lack of a camera, limited apps and even its name (one which has sparked an onslaught of jokes online).

But the bigger question may be what the future holds for the iPad and its effect on the newspaper, magazine and book industries. In 2008 alone, the amount of paper recovered for recycling averaged 340 pounds for every person in the U.S. That same year, a record-high 57.4 percent of the paper consumed in the U.S. was recovered for recycling.

Photo: Flickr/kengo

Unveiled on Jan. 27, the iPad has attracted attention from around the globe for its 10-hour battery power, futuristic hardware and the facility of its multi-touch interface. Photo: Flickr/kengo

A widely recyclable and highly collected material paper may be, but could electronic replacements be the answer to reducing our waste consumption?

It’s no secret that the print journalism industry is feeling economic pressure, but would consumers be more apt to subscribe to these publications if they were easily accessible (and still affordable) in tablet form?

“The iPad’s got a lot of potential for newspapers and magazines,” says Allan Hoffman, CEO and founder of Web100.com. “Plenty of newspapers – and magazines, too – are online now, but the iPad means they’ll be able to offer an experience that’s a lot more like that of flipping through the pages of a newspaper or magazine.”

“In fact, the iPad may provide an experience that’s even better – and one you can hold in your hand, carry on the train or read in bed,” he continues. “It will be like reading a print publication, yet also add great options for audio, video and other multimedia features.”

Like Hoffman, some believe that the iPad truly has the potential to change the publishing industry as we know it, but others are more skeptical.

“The iPad appears to be a much more flexible and comfortable format than the Kindle for reading newspapers and magazines, but not as good for reading books,” says Sascha Segan, managing editor of PC Magazine.

Despite conceding to the iPad’s bright, colorful graphics and the impact this may have on the layouts of newspapers and magazines, Segan was quick to issue a caveat against the iPad’s usefulness for longer texts, namely books.

“But the iPad’s TFT LCD display is far more tiring on the eyes than the Kindle’s e-ink display,” he says. “Looking at the iPad is like looking at a laptop or an iPhone, with a backlight glaring up into your eyes. That doesn’t really matter for the amount of time it takes to read a newspaper or magazine, but there’s still an advantage to restful e-ink for long-form, text-only reading.”

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  1. The problem with speculation like this is that the “argument” is based only on the iPad alone. The ipad is just the beginning, and in the early stages of new platforms. The real question is not how will we be reading in 2010 but where will technology and reading take us by 2015 or 2020. There is only one effective path for reading in the future and that is electronic. Paper is at or past its apex. And e-paper is just a simple young adolescent, having not yet the time to flex its true muscles.

  2. I agree with BoSacks – electronic reading is definitely the way of the future. However, I don’t think any particular device has done it so well yet as to draw readers away from actual paper-based books. Aside from environmental factors (impact of paper production as compared to electronics manufacturing), paper books have a sort of nostalgic intimacy all their own that adds to the joy and excitement of reading a book.

  3. Pingback: How Soon Until We’re Paperless? | Plymouth Square at 37th

  4. I still prefer books. At least when I drop them in the tub, I am only out $6.95, not $300-$400. I think th ipad is a step in the right direction. The kindle is too small, netbooks are just small mini laptops, and the kindle is too tiny! Time to go bigger for a change and make things readable. It is amazing to me that computer screens get bigger, but portable devices get smaller. Watching a movie or reading on an ipod is a joke. It is so small, you practically have to hold it to your face the entire time!!!!

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