Developers are always striving to create that killer app. According to Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. Apple’s iPad provides just such killer apps. Unfortunately, they are job killer apps, at least as he sees it. According to Jackson
“A few short weeks ago I came to the House floor after having purchased an iPad and said that I happened to believe, Mr. Speaker, that at some point in time this new device, which is now probably responsible for eliminating thousands of American jobs. Now Borders is closing stores because, why do you need to go to Borders anymore? Why do you need to go to Barnes & Noble? Buy an iPad and download your newspaper, download your book, download your magazine.”
Jackson is correct to point out that the way books, newspapers and magazines are sold has changed. As he points out, you do not need to go to a Borders or a Barnes & Noble to get these things. You can simply fire up your iPad. Of course, what he fails to mention is that you can also fire up your Kindle, your smart phone, your Mac, your PC, your Android tablet, your Barnes & Noble Nook or other device. As such, to lay the blame on the iPad is rather unfair. If the iPad is killing jobs, then it is not a lone killer, but part of an ever growing pack of killers.
There is, of course, the question of whether these devices are killing jobs.
In regards to Borders, it seems unfair to blame its demise solely on the iPad or other such devices. After all, Amazon has been selling physical books at a significant discount for some time, which certainly has had an impact on brick and mortar retailers such as Borders. It also seems reasonable to consider that Borders might also bear some blame in its demise in terms of its management and approach to changes in technology and consumer behavior.
These changes will (and have) resulted in job losses. After all, the digital market is expanding as the paper market is shrinking. Part of this shrinkage is due to factors other than the expansion of the digital market, but it is clearly a factor. Of course, the iPad and other devices are merely the latest news in a process that has been going on since the advent of the personal computer. Just as the telephone eliminated jobs (such as those in the telegram business), the iPad and its ilk will also help eliminate jobs. However, these devices also create jobs. After all, people have to make them, sell them, repair them, and so on. Also, people still have to create the content that is being sold on these devices, ranging from apps to books to movies. As such, while the growing digital economy is eliminating jobs in some areas, it is clearly creating jobs elsewhere.
Of course, there is still the legitimate question of whether or not the jobs being created are replacing the jobs lost to Americans. After all, the Borders jobs went mainly to Americans, while the iPads and their ilk are made in China and other places outside of the United States. While much of the content for these devices is created in the United States, there is also the question of whether or not these jobs offset the losses created by the shifting economy. This is, of course, an empirical matter.
As a final point, even if the iPad and its fellows are killing jobs by changing the nature of how content is sold and delivered, there is the question of what Congress should do about it, if anything. After all, such significant changes in technology (as noted above) always lead to changes in the way the economy works and trying to hold back these changes by law would most likely be a cure that is worse than the disease.