(After a bit of a hiatus while teaching a summer class, I’m finally back with this overdue overview of print magazines taking the leap to digital.)

Print is dead, at least if you listen to the conventional wisdom of the past decade (or three). But there is still a multitude of things print-style journalism does really well, far better than the lifeless, utilitarian Web content you’re, um, reading right now. Despite the nay-saying of many in the blogoverse that the publishing industry is an old, tired, ancient dinosaur that’s old and tired, magazines are still capable of conveying striking beauty, energy and emotion, while imparting a depth of understanding uncommon on the Web. What’s broken is their business model, not their format, something publishers desperately hope digital magazines may help fix.

The lead-up to the iPad’s launch saw breathtaking visions of the future of publishing from the likes of Wired, Sports Illustrated and VIV, but the reality nearly two months after launch is decidedly less impressive. Wired has finally surfaced with a somewhat scaled-back (but non-Flash) version of its technogeek bible, but Sports Illustrated and VIV nowhere to be found yet. Thus it falls to a ragtag band of hopefuls to start staking out the iPad’s potential as a print-digital crossover. After the break, an overview of some of the most noteworthy attempts, what they get right, and where they fall short.

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May 29th, 2010

The latest blog trend, following on the heels of the popular “Why the iPad is a letdown” articles that were making the rounds in April: the “Why I now love the iPad” article. One such example is a post by venture capitalist Fred Wilson, who wrote a fairly typical iPad pan a month ago, saying:

You give up a lot with the iPad and you don’t get much in return. You lose multi-tasking which is a huge deal for me. I can’t listen to music while I write this. That alone is a showstopper for me. Plus it’s slow as a computer. The apps run slow and so is the browser. That could be my wifi but my MacBook runs on the same wifi network and there’s a noticeable difference in the speed of browsing between them.

A fairly standard critique, echoing statements made by many others in the blogorama. Oh, but what’s this? Fast forward to this week, and all of a sudden, Mr. Wilson has fallen for his little aluminum buddy:

Over the past week, I have fallen in love with the thing. And so I am telling you why…

Part of it is the fact that I can go out on my terrace with a cup of coffee, a glass of lemonade, or a glass of wine and do email in a relaxed mood. If my wife or kids interrupt me, it’s easy to put the thing down and engage in a conversation. The iPad makes using a computer less of a commitment and that has important implications for the way I compute. I like how I feel when I am using the thing.

That difference in the way he evaluated the iPad then and now — first based solely on a cold, left-brain assessment of its features and shortcomings, followed by a more natural, emotional and shared (with his family) understanding of how it impacted his life — is the key to understanding the future of the iPad and the tablet in general.

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Apple is certainly no stranger to hype — Steve Jobs has built its recent success on a giant, lofty cloud of it. But the “magical, revolutionary” iPad raised hype levels to previously unseen heights. Which reminded me of another product that was preceded by hyperbole and secrecy, only to be greeted with howls of derision upon its unveiling. The similarities are difficult to ignore…

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You have to have some sympathy for the makers of the just-released tablet device everyone is talking about — no, I’m talking about the JooJoo, Fusion Garage’s new tablet… thing. Or perhaps sympathy is the wrong word… pity? Disdain? Schadenfreude, anyone?

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