What can I say, I bought an iPad. I'd planned on waiting for the early-adopter jitters to work themselves out, but then my college bookstore got them in stock, and, well...
In any event, as most of you have probably heard by now, this thing is just about perfect right out of the box. (One advantage of its being "just a big iPod Touch" is that its operating system, and general hardware scheme, are mature and user-tested.) It's not especially comfortable for writing (for that I'll stick with my laptop), but it is an ideal casual-computing device. It excels at video and photos (the photo-viewing app is spectacular, and my family has already enjoyed browsing pictures we haven't looked at in years), and is pretty good for internet as well. Its main use for me so far has been quick readings of student manuscripts, and responses to them via email, and this experience (after getting my email accounts squared away) has been smooth.
But what about books?
If you were thinking about buying a Kindle, you might want to reconsider. The iPad Kindle app exceeds it in pretty much every way except for reading in bright sunlight, and the iBooks app is even better looking (though the iBookstore, so far, contains little I want to read and is a pain in the ass to navigate). In the evening, with the screen brightness adjusted down to about 25%, I experienced no eyestrain, no more than when reading a paper book. The only thing I've actually bought (in the Kindle store) is a Lawrence Block story that is apparently unavailable anywhere in print, and the pages look great. The iPad is rather heavy and you might find that it slips around in your lap too easily; if so, get the rather ugly but very utilitarian grippy-feeling case that Apple sells--it will serve you well until a more elegant solution becomes available. Personally, I suspect I'm always going to prefer a real book. But I think that, for a lot of people, this is going to become their primary way of reading.
The one thing I am excited about, however, is something not many reviewers seem to have mentioned--magazines. For several months, I've been a subscriber to JPG, a photography publication whose print edition died of poverty, and which has reimagined itself as a pdf-only concern. I had downloaded all 20 issues, figuring that, some lonely day, I would get around to reading them on my laptop. But the iPad suddenly seemed a better bet. I picked up the $1 Goodreader app (it displays pdfs on the iPhone OS) and loaded in my JPGs via iTunes.
Holy moses! JPG looks incredible--and so, I suspect, will most art magazines. This platform, I think, is going to revolutionize the periodical business--it should single-handedly make electronic magazines, full-color magazines, commercially and aesthetically viable. This is great news, as a lot of fine special-interest magazines have bitten the dust in recent years, thanks to declining advertising revenues and increasing postal and printing costs. I realize that generating good editorial content is not cheap, but suddenly there seems to be some wiggle room in the previously claustrophobic and crap-heavy periodicals market. My book-buying dollars are likely to keep flowing towards my local bookstore, but magazines? I will be watching closely for new offerings in the niche markets that interest me. I suspect a lot of would-be editors are entertaining a lot of very interesting ideas this week.