January 2010 | Steve Alburty

Don't be a bauble-head

bauble copy.jpg
The world of consumer electronics was rocked today by the announcement of Apple's iPad. 

Steve Jobs, in whose frail body resides the robust soul of P.T. Barnum, was full of superlatives at today's announcement.  And the video on Apple's website speaks about the product in terms usually reserved before passing out Kool-Aid in equatorial climes.

Phil Schiller, director of Worldwide Marketing for Apple describes the iPad as "The best web-surfing experience, the best email experience, the best photo and motion picture experience ..."

Hold it, Phil.  Rewind. There's a word you left out: "book." 

There is no doubt that the new iPad will have a book reader, and Apple has been striking deals with publishers and is making Amazon and its Kindle nervous, as in that sort of "Oh God, my diapers seems to be leaking" sort of way.

But here's the real story behind today's announcement that all readers of Fine Books Magazine and this blog need to think about. 

Beware the shiny new bauble.

As if receiving direct communications from the Ghost of Electronics Baubles past, I opened my desk drawer last night and there was a Newton MessagePad.  I bought one the day it went on sale.  I powered it up and scribbled a note on it with my stylus.  (The Newton was famous for misreading handwriting.)  I wrote: "Should I buy a new Apple tablet-thingy when it comes out tomorrow?"  The Newton converted my scrawl into oracular handwriting, "What, are you nuts?"

I have a general rule of thumb when it comes to consumer electronics or computer software: never buy the first release of anything.

Many of you are sitting there trying to decide what sort of book-reader you're going to buy.  Kindle?  Barnes & Noble's nook?  Apple's iPad?

Here's a suggestion: calm yourself and don't make a decision until at least the end of the year when all of the e-dust has settled.  The answer will be revealed to all of us once at least one "rev" (revision) of the iPad has been released. 
(My friend Bruce wonders what the name will be for the version with more memory: MaxiPad?) 

Until then, I must tell you that I discovered the absolute greatest reading experience of all time the other day!  In fact, I already own hundreds of them and I hear they are readily available in stores.

It's called a book.