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Frum: My dream product from Apple

By David Frum, Special to CNN
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • CNN contributor David Frum isn't so impressed with new iPad but loves his iPhone
  • His challenge to Apple: I want an Apple product to replace my voluminous home library
  • Frum also wants to be able to take notes on his reading, and have them be searchable
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Editor's note: David Frum writes a weekly column for CNN.com. A special assistant to President Bush in 2001-2, he is the author of six books, including "Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again" and the editor of FrumForum.

(CNN) -- I belong to that class of person once mocked by The Onion: "If it's shiny and made by Apple, I'll buy it."

But I won't be buying the new iPad. I can't see why I need it: an iPhone that cannot make calls, a laptop on which it is inconvenient to type.

The iPad reminds me of a previous Apple product, the Newton. Introduced in the early 1990s, the Newton was a datebook, phonebook and sketchpad too big to hold in a pocket. Who needed it? But the Newton contained the genesis of the iPhone, a machine I depend upon utterly, despite the maddeningly poor quality of the phone service.

So I ask myself: If the iPad is a concept, what is it a concept of? What would I like Apple to do for me next?

Admitting I'm probably an idiosyncratic computer user, here's what I want:

I want Apple to do for my library what the iPod did for my record collection: eliminate it.

I want the 3,000 books I own, occupying hundreds of linear feet in four rooms of my house, plus an office downtown, plus many cubic feet of storage space in my basement, to be digitized into electronic form, all stored on a reader that can hold every single one of them, backed up onto my desktop computer.

I used to feel the romance of the printed book. No more!

They are heavy, easily soiled, always in the wrong place and difficult to search. The other day I was trying to remember an anecdote that I thought I had read in one of Max Hastings' books about World War II. The indexes were useless, as they almost always are. I never did find it, and in the end I was left unsure whether I'd read the anecdote somewhere else. What if I could do a search of the key words in every book I'd ever read?

Amazon's Kindle is the Model T of the electronic book of the future: a clunky, ugly machine of very limited serviceability. It's fine if you read only newly published works from commercial houses. Not so useful if you read books from academic houses, books with maps or illustrations, or older books.

I want my computer and reader to be able to do for books what my computer and iPod can do with compact discs: scan them quickly, absorb their contents and reassemble them in a new format.

I want to be able to take notes on my reading, and then later search those notes or transfer them into another program. I want the machine to work as well offline as online. And I want to be able to use it while my plane is taking off and landing.

Apple geniuses: Go to work!

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of David Frum.