Here we are, on the eve of the Tablet’s unveiling, with only hours to go before we find out just how ambitious Apple’s latest creation is. Countless articles have been written about how the forthcoming Tablet could be the savior of old media. Supposedly, people will finally start paying for this content because it will be readily available at their fingertips. But the promise of the tablet does not lie in immediate access to content; the Internet can already do that, as can the Kindle, to some extent. The true revolution lies in the new medium the tablet will give us. Four months ago Dan Lyons, writing as Fake Steve Jobs, totally nailed it:
New technology spawns new ways to tell stories. That’s the really exciting thing here. Not the tablet itself, but what it means for news, for entertainment, for literature. Gasp. Geddit? Is the f***ing light going off yet? This is what Anton Chekhov meant when he said that the medium is the message. This is why the Tablet is so profound.
There is no point in moving to digital readers if we’re just going to do what we did on paper. That’s why Kindle is such a piece of shit. All they did was pave the cowpath. And that’s why we’ve held back on our Tablet — not because the technology wasn’t ready, but because the content guys are such f***tards that they still can’t create anything that makes it worth putting the Tablet into the world.
You Say You Want A Revolution
Now, I don’t think the Kindle is a “piece of shit” by any means. The Kindle is to text what the iPod was to music. It lets you store and easily carry a vast amount of content with you at all times. That’s in no way a bad thing — the iPod has been adopted by a significant portion of Earth’s population because its appeal is so universal. But the Tablet can break new ground. It won’t just be a new way to conveniently access content. It will be a new way to consume it. Last September, Gizmodo reported that Apple was urging publishers to create so-called hybridized content that “draws from audio, video and interactive graphics in books, magazines and newspapers, where paper layouts would be static. ”
When we hear talk of Steve Jobs saying this is the most important thing he’s done, I don’t think he’s excited about giving people a bigger screen to watch their movies on, or to play better games. I think he’s excited about changing the way we read and learn.
But it’s going to be tough. My concern is not that Apple will fail to deliver; I have little doubt that their product launch tomorrow will be stellar. My doubts lie with the content providers themselves. Yesterday, the LA Times ran a story that touched on this:
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