Could Apple’s tablet save print journalism?

As the hype surrounding the rumoured unveiling of an e-reader tablet from Apple Inc. grows, New York Times columnist David Carr jumped into the conversation and suggested the new device could be a saviour for journalism.

In a Jan. 3 column titled “A saviour in the form of a tablet,” Carr asks, “So, is the Apple tablet a figment of so much Web-borne pixie dust or is it the second coming of the iPhone, a so-called Jesus tablet that can do anything, including saving some embattled print providers from doom?”

While the existence of such a device from Apple is still only rumoured, many are weighing in on its value and Carr, for one, is excited about it. He answers his own question: “I’m an optimist, so I will pick door No. 2.”

The predictions have the tablet running around $700 to $1000 and put it somewhere between an iPhone and a laptop, with a 10-inch screen that will play videos and display type.

Carr figures it means a big change for readers of the printed word. He writes:

“The tablet represents an opportunity to renew the romance between printed material and consumer. Think of sitting in your living room, in your bed or on a plane with a publication you really adore nestled into your lap. Since print was first conceived, people have had an intimate relationship with the text, touching, flipping and paging back and forth.

“The tablet, properly executed, will be an iPhone on steroids, and anybody who has spent any time with that device knows that much of its magic lies in replicating that intimate offline navigation. It is a very human, almost innate, urge — readers want to touch what they are seeking to learn.”

But Carr also points to Slate‘s Jack Shafer, who likens the tablet idea to the CD-ROM and figures it won’t have any more of an impact than this much-hyped innovation that “fizzled out quickly.”

Meanwhile, John Hudson, at The Atlantic Wire, points to other opinions written about the tablet’s power to change/save journalism (or not).