I do not, as Farhad Manjoo has already said on Slate , need an iPad. But I have one. And every night since its glorious appearance on my doorstep last Saturday, I’ve curled up with it, surfing, e-mailing, watching the iBooks library shelf flip around like the entrance to a secret passageway into the iBooks store. I downloaded The Elements for iPad in all of its glory and “visually explored” the elements of the periodic table as they rotated in three dimensions off the screen. And then I went to sleep, and the next night, I did it again. After bedtime. Because this is my new toy. And I don’t have to share.
But children’s book publishers are counting on the iPad as the next frontier of kids’ entertainment. There are plenty of kids’ books available in that iBooks store (in fact, the iPad came preloaded with Winnie the Pooh ). The Cat in the Hat app (which can highlight the words as it reads them, be read like “the book in its traditional form,” or play like a movie, with “custom background audio” for each scene) is already a top seller. Publishers aren’t wrestling with whether parents will want to read to their kids from a $499 device -that appears to be a given. The question is whether we will just want to read or will also want our kids to be able to “interact” with the book-coloring it, or tapping on the characters to see them respond. Should every book become a Choose Your Own Adventure when it appears in this format? Are they books or apps? And how much will we be willing to pony up? (Is Toy Story 2 really worth $8.99?)
I’m still back at that initial question, though, and for now my answer is no. My iPhone has served as toy on long trips (most notably to China) but is otherwise strictly off limits. They haven’t even seen the iPad yet. And the reason for that has nothing to do with my desire that they read traditional books or play with their wooden blocks instead of with Tetris-we’re a family with four Nintendos in (limited) use. It’s because it’s mine . The iPhone-and now the iPad-is for the grown-up, who may very rarely and on extremely special occasions, permit you to stroke it with an admiring finger or even play the game with the rolly ball . Mine, do you hear me? All mine. Because some things just should be.
Photograph of an iPad by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.