Typical Sunday morning at Starbucks. I’m doing the line ritual as I await my fix … the combo yawn-stretch followed by a scan of my surroundings. Trying my best to avoid the get-a-room couple in front of me, I spy the stack of Sunday papers for sale and without warning a thought pops into my head: “Wait, I don’t need to buy one … I have an iPad.”

Bingo, my own private paradigm shift, and actually before my first cappuccino of the day.

The iPad in my backpack has turned this part of my Sunday ritual into an effortless and rather empowering experience. Locked and loaded with apps for USA Today and the New York Times, I consume only what I want, and I do it instantly. I even manage to save a few trees.

My friends would say, “Yeah, and? You’re a geek and a technology addict. You’ll dive into any new gadget the moment it comes out!” OK, true. But I’ve found using the iPad to consume text is easier than getting it from the printed page, something that – for me, at least – had never happened on even the smallest of laptops or the most portable of PDAs.

No doubt millions of consumers are enjoying their own pad revolution epiphanies, with a menu of devices and even larger menu of applications transforming the way we digest content and – even more important – how we customize our diets.

I stifle an audible chuckle at the thought that I’ve been caught off-guard by this shift, and I was actually one of the more prepared consumers out there. A graduate of New York University’s interactive telecommunications program who has spent the better part of 20 years pushing the boundaries of new-media technologies, I remember the unwarranted freedom with which theorists tossed around the word “convergence” in the ’90s. And, no, you’re not alone. That term makes me cringe as well.

My point is that technology has not only caught up with vision, but it is also far more ubiquitous. Gone are the dial-up days, when downloads lasted tens of minutes. Mobile and pad devices provide instant connectivity without “plugging in,” due to the expanding availability of wireless Internet access. The technology is also now cheap enough to make it as common as the telephone. Add more than 1,500 different content applications for the iPad alone, and you can see how that Starbucks newspaper display has been hit by only the tip of a media-devouring iceberg.


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