Three years ago, Apple announced the introduction of its new iPad. As soon as Steve Jobs did his magician’s act and unveiled the tablet in front of thousands of spellbound reporters, I told people I wanted one. “Why?” they asked. “I don’t know,” I said. I already owned an iPod and a MacBook. What specific need did I have that only a tablet computer could fulfill? “I can read ebooks,” I said. “Why not get a Kindle then?” I had no real answer to that question other than that the iPad just seemed . . . cooler.
I have always been an early adopter of technology (or what is known in the tech world as “a sucker”). Looking back, however, I am not sure that my attraction to the iPad was a totally irrational impulse. I was the first person in my circle to own a tablet, and after my friends and co-workers remarked on the greasiness of its glass screen, they almost all agreed that my new toy was a wondrous invention — although it was hard to articulate why.
True to my predictions, I began reading books and magazines on my iPad. At first I’d wondered whether digital editions would supplant printed books in my life, but that hasn’t been the case. Instead I find myself preferring the electronic version of some titles and the ink-on-paper version of others. I remain a great booster of print, which I expect will have a long and healthy life well into the future. As long as doctors make us stew in waiting rooms, there will be a need for dog-eared magazines to soften our impatience.
But there is clearly also a place for tablets in our culture, now that the iPad has been joined by the Kindle Fire and the Nexus and the Nook. Recently, the Pew Research Center determined that 25 percent of Americans own a tablet computer (not including those who own a dedicated e-reader). For once, I seem to have adopted a technology that wasn’t just a flash in the pan.
This is all a longwinded way of making my own Steve Jobs-like announcement. Starting with this issue, Down East will now be available in a digital edition, complete with all sorts of features like pinch-and-zoom viewing, multimedia extras, and links to resources on the Web. At first, it will only be available on the Apple iOS Newsstand, but we will be rolling it out quickly onto the Android and other platforms (it might already be available by the time you read this). A single electronic issue costs $3.99, or you can buy a year’s subscription for $19.99.
What does this mean for the printed magazine, which we will continue to publish as we have for nearly sixty years? I anticipate that some subscribers will switch to digital but in general we will see more people than ever reading some version of Down East. How confident am I in this prediction? Not to boast or anything, but I did guess right about the iPad. . . .