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iRefuse: Why I Am Not Buying an iPad (Yet)

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Someday, after I wash out of journalism, I am going to go into the lawnmower business. I am going to invent a really awesome, beautifully sculpted lawnmower. I will convince the press that my lawnmower will save their imperiled business model. Then I can sit back, relax, and watch news outlets fall over themselves to liveblog the day my lawnmower goes on sale.

OK, I have some nerve writing that, as an employee of the magazine that put this on the cover. But there is a question worth asking: of all the news organizations heralding the iPad—and, more important, making apps and creating content for it—how many of their employees will actually own one, and thus be able to consume their own e-publications?

Not me, not yet. Do I want an iPad? Sure! I just don’t want to buy one. And it’s a conflicted decision because I’m not just an Apple junkie but a media writer. (That latter fact is my go-to rationalization if I give in to gadget lust and buy one tomorrow.) Since we’ve heard so much from journos who are smitten with the iPad, here are a few of the reasons this one is waiting:

I work in print media, and so don’t have a secure enough future income. Totally a joke! Because the iPad is going to save print media, get people to start paying money for content again and take us all back to the days of Johnny Apple’s giant expense account! Seriously, though, I have kids and a mortgage and a seriously conservative budgeting habit. My heap of home gadgets notwithstanding, I am a cheap bastard, and so it matters to me that…

I don’t know what I would do with it yet. I love portable computers; I’m tethered to my laptop. I love touchscreens; I clutch my iPhone like Don Draper fondling a pack of cigarettes. But I have these devices now, and while many of the things the iPad’s apps can do seem undeniably neat, there isn’t one—yet—that makes me jones to add another screen to my life. (Not to mention pay orders of magnitude more than for my iPhone’s apps.)

I don’t know what you will do with it yet. For a media writer, this is the bigger issue. Hundreds of thousands of pre-orders notwithstanding, the iPad is not yet a mass medium. Not after (checks watch) fourteen hours, anyway. I’ll consider it an essential, something I need in order to understand how media is being consumed today, once it actually is being used en masse. As with the iPhone—which I bought a year or so after it came out—it’s the sort of product whose function is really revealed once people start using it and figure out what it’s for. If they do.

I actually like reading on the iPhone. No seriously. Not just email and news; I read entire novels on Kindle for iPhone. Which makes me a freak. Also, I like watching video on it. Playing games, looking up information, getting directions, downloading recipes–most of which activities, I suspect, are that much cooler/effective on a larger screen. But $500 cooler? See “cheap bastard,” above. Point being: I absolutely want the mobility, tactility and ability to access the cloud that the iPad promises. For now, though, I feel I already have that, enough to satisfy me anyway. (Ask me again next week.)

It’s not going to change my video life—yet. Put Hulu on the iPad and we’ll talk. Make the offerings of the major networks available, make it into some kind of real substitute for a cable subscription and I’d be interested. So far, however, I see various versions of things I can do on my computer, TiVo or iPhone.

I’m not an early adopter. Forget computers—I’ve never so much as bought a new car. Being the first to touch the new thing is as heady and short-lived a thrill as snorting a line. As with my iPhone, I’ve never yet regretted waiting for the cheaper, better second generation of anything, and the few times I have bought early—like the first-gen Intel Core Mac that seemed to become too slow the second I opened the box—I’ve definitely regretted. (Note: The iPad is probably different! Everything about the iPad is different!)

It’s one more damn thing. This is my most nebulous reason, yet the most important. I use my laptop for work and don’t see the iPad replacing it. I don’t see it replacing my iPhone either. So the question is, do I heed Steve Jobs’ call for a “third screen” between the laptop and smartphone—and the accompanying permanent obligation of annual upgrades in my budget? Not to be corny, but I honestly believe a major source of misery in modern life is that we have too much crap—and thus, are too beholden to the financial obligations to support that crapload of crap. That costs us money, time, freedom and happiness. So throwing one more trinket on my camel’s back is a big-deal decision.

I’m secretly hoping that, if I whine about it enough, someone else will buy it for me. You can send it to my office!