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The iPad revolution

Ipad-BannerOn April 3, 2010, Apple introduced the iPad to the world. And the print world, as we know it today, may never be the same.

Shortly after the launch, newspapers and magazines began developing and launching their own apps for this new handheld technology. Today, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Columbus Dispatch, and most recently the Washington Post all have iPad apps. From flipping through photo galleries and watching videos, to sharing stories through Twitter and Facebook, the newspaper iPad app is changing the face of new media one newspaper at a time.

There is, however, one less likely iPad demographic taking the lead in new technology. The Optimist student newspaper of Abilene Christian University is the first college newspaper to develop its own app for the iPad. On April 6 – just three days after the launch of the iPad – the Optimist was available for viewing on this new device.

The iPad app was created through a collaborative effort between the university’s Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, the Department of Art and Design, and the School of Information and Technology. Once Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced the impending launch of the iPad, students from different disciplines came together and worked tirelessly to create the app. Abilene Christian University is no stranger to innovation. It also developed an iPod Touch and an iPhone newspaper app.

“We’re always striving to find the best way to serve our readers. So we want to be adaptable to any technology they use,” said Optimist editor in chief Linda Bailey in an e-mail interview. “I didn’t even know an iPad would exist when I started working for the paper. I know that what I’m learning at ACU will help me in my future career endeavors.”

Although certainly innovative and relevant to the contemporary media world, how realistic is an iPad app for a college newspaper? With iPad prices starting at $499, the device is not easily accessible to the stereotypical poor college student. How many students will be viewing the app?

According to Bailey, the creation of the iPad app hasn’t been a wasted effort. “We’re getting a lot of views. It may not be students yet, but we’re serving some audience,” she said. “Also, with the growing popularity of digital textbooks, more and more students might start owning iPads, and we’ll already have an app ready as those begin growing in popularity.” The students are also learning how to integrate new technology and journalism, which bodes well for when they enter the professional media world.

It remains to be seen whether newspapers will go completely digital, but with the changing face of technology, papers are adapting and reworking their original models to be more tech-friendly to all. According to the New York Observer, the first totally digital iPad newspaper, tentatively titled The Daily, will be available to the masses in December – or at least available to those in possession of a coveted iPad.

— Kim Ropars

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