Sometimes new technology comes along that creates big changes in unexpected ways. The iPad seems to be on its way to becoming one of these game-changers. By being portable, intimate, and yet big enough to provide a good reading and watching experience, the iPad may foster a breakthrough in how we read and view online content. Some supporting evidence comes from a recent study by ReadItLater, a web service that lets users tag web content for later reading. The study analyzed the timing of the consumption of 100 million that users had tagged for later reading. There’s a nice write-up in Fast Company. The study suggests that as devices become more mobile, we are changing both where and when we read online content. According to ReadItLater’s analysis, traditional PC users consume online content relatively evenly throughout the day. By sharp contrast, iPhone and iPad users exhibit consumption peaks during breakfast time, morning commute, end of workday and evening commute, and late evening. But iPad users have the largest peak in reading occurring in the 8-10 pm primetime period – the time usually dominated by traditional TV watching. This could be good news for newspaper, book, and magazine publishers, many of whom have struggled to find viable business models on the web. It’s probably bad news for network and cable TV since their audiences seem to be putting their attention elsewhere. (ReadItLater data doesn’t show whether iPad users are also settling back to watch TV on Hulu or movies on Netflix, but it’s a good bet that many people are doing that – again, at the expense of regular TV.) So what makes the iPad such a potentially high-impact device? After all, it’s really just an iPhone with a more usable form factor or a skinny laptop. But the right combination of portability and very comfortable reading and viewing experience may be just enough to change (almost) everything.