iPhad or Two Thousand Lumps of Dusty Pulp?

Well itʼs here. The iPad has finally landed, descended from on high, well from Cupertino California at least, and all the hoopla and hype surrounding itʼs launch is beginning to settle like the dust in my library. But more on that later.

As an unrepentant early adopter Iʼve had my nose pressed up against the Apple store window in NY for a month, figuratively speaking. I have been waiting for them to open the store so I could get in and buy one. Well thatʼs not strictly true, as I couldnʼt be in NY for the great day I had my brother in laws nose pressed against the window last Saturday, and having bought it he dispatched it to me courtesy of FedEx. Iʼd decided to buy the full fat 64GB version. Friends told me to wait for the 3G launch, but no I wanted to play with one of these at once.

So, Iʼve now spent the last few days playing on the thing, tucking it away in small, very small, bags when I go anywhere. Leaving it lying on the sofa when Iʼm sat there, or by the side of the bed, in the kitchen in fact anywhere and everywhere. You see the thing is truly the ubiquitous tablet weʼve all waited for. Once youʼve got one, you want it with you all the time. E-mail, calendars, address books and music all sync effortlessly and with little need for technical understanding beyond having the ability to tap itʼs touch sensitive screen. It also plays, and sells you of course, movies, TV shows, music and hundreds of thousands of apps.

Then, for me there is the killer app, the reason I actually bought the thing in the first place. iBooks. Iʼve played with Sony Readers, flirted with a Kindle and tried even earlier attempts to make e-books actually work. All of them, so to speak, were not worth the paper they werenʼt printed on. Remarkably last year sales for e-readers were still up around 5 million for gadgets that were still functionally pretty useless. The problem with e-readers up to this point has always been a choice between long battery life or vibrant living colour.

So, back to my dusty books. Well theyʼve been like family members to me each and every one loved, written in, read and re-read. I remember the first book I actually paid my own hard earned cash for (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – but I was only eight and it was actually pocket money). The first business book I bought (Kotlers Marketing Management). I have first editions of James Bond, a complete set of Churchillʼs A History of the English-Speaking Peoples and over two thousand or so other books in my dusty library.

Which brings me to my dilemma. The iPad is by a long way the best reading experience Iʼve ever come across. The screen is bright, and you can adjust it, and the response time to page turning is, to deploy a much over-used word, phenomenal. I bought my first iBook yesterday, Andrew Marrʼs History of Modern Britain, and can now lie in bed at midnight and read it without having to strap a small flash lamp to my head. So now for the first time I look at my library and see the equivalent of 2,000 VHS video tapes or 2,000 vinyl LPs. Is my beloved library now only filled with 2,000 lumps of dusty pulp? Will I still buy printed books? Thatʼs the question. It seems that finally technology has caught up with the printed book after around five hundred years of dominance. I can carry my ʻbookʼ and indeed entire library around with me where-ever I go and read where and when I want. Thatʼs remarkable.

And when technology shifts in such a dramatic fashion, you can be sure there will be huge impacts and opportunities in a brand and marketing perspective. The ability to target and develop true relationships with consumers has never been more attainable or immediate. Thatʼs the exciting bit.

The iPad is quite simply a game changer. Nothing, at the moment, comes close.

(P.S. the keyboard is also good enough for me to be able to write this blog while traveling on the Stockholm underground!)

Julian Stubbs, Head of Global Branding at the Stockholm marketing agency, gyro