Rahul Koduri lined up outside Sydney’s Apple store at 2am this morning to become the first person in Australia to buy an iPad (aside from the 1700-odd bought on eBay, and the hardcore geeks who crossed the Pacific for their all-singing, all-dancing web-enabled tablet).

The 22-year-old excitedly told AAP: “It’s fantastic, it was so worth the wait.”

But Koduri’s iPad fever is nothing compared to the virulent strain inflicting Australia’s newspaper publishers. Desperate editors, who long ago decided Apple’s latest must-have gadget was the saviour of declining readerships, have driven the bandwagon of fans.

For The Australian — the country’s “serious national newspaper” as it reminds us — the launch of the iPad was today’s front-page news. Or at least, the sales pitch for the paper’s iPad application was. Caroline Overington wrote whimsically about former News henchman Ken Cowley, one of the architects of The Oz, getting his first taste of the iPad. Cowley delivers the edict: “I embrace it.”

“Well, it’s fantastic. And it will help secure the future of The Australian, which is a very personal and emotional thing to me.”

Editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell declares it an “important moment” for the paper. And as he warns, it’s up to you, Apple consumers, to make sure news is kept in the hands of Rupert and not those good-for-nothing bloggers.

The Australian is a world-class newspaper. But journalism is expensive and those of us who understand how important serious journalism is to a functioning democracy need to make sure we protect that role from the bloggers and aggregators who live off our work but can never break a real story.”

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The Australian has been positively giddy over the device that promises to “revolutionise newspapers”: this week alone it’s told us about the wonders of the iPad for the cafe set and book lovers, delivered news about pricing plans and informs of the corporate giants apparently lining up to advertise on its application.

iPad mania has infected Fairfax, too. Its papers have run dozens of stories — constantly reminding us, as The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald do again today, the publisher has “joined only a handful of companies to develop an app for the new iPad”.

“We live in exciting times,” Herald editor Peter Fray writes today. Fairfax Magazines chief Lisa Hudson reckons it’s “the beginning of a new era for magazine publishing”. And Age editor-in-chief Paul Ramadge helpfully explains his new app: “It will look like the paper. In fact, it will be the paper — just on a screen, not on paper.”

A brave new world, indeed.

Apple overtook Microsoft this week as the world’s biggest technology company — something newspaper bosses can claim at least some credit for for. For services to boosting Apple’s bottom line, and shameless self-promotion masquerading as news, they deservedly share this week’s Wankley Award.

Peter Fray

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