I want to use an iPad as an interactive part of an exhibition. Will it last or will it break? Does anyone have experience?
Anecdotally, I attended the Detroit Auto Show this year. Audi had cleverly embedded iPads into the information stands next to all their cars, running their own information app. The home button was covered by the stand, so the app couldn't be exited. It made for a very impressive display.
I was there during the final weekend of the (very high traffic) two-week show. All of the iPads were functioning marvelously, and the screens were all in very good shape. That said, there was no well to tell if any had needed to be replaced. Take it as you will.
My university's computer store has had three iPads on display since launch, probably hundreds of people per-day using them. They're all in perfect condition.
I will give this tip: Make sure that they're physically locked down such that they can't move. The reason being that if you have them simply tethered to a security cable and to the dock connector, the dock connector cable will eventually begin to fray. It happened on all three iPads. Those cables just aren't designed to be permanently attached and constantly twisted, so make sure that the iPad can't move.
Well Apple stores have thousands of people handling iPads every day so I think it should be fine.
I would probably have a 2nd one on call just in case you do have to replace it.
Matt B raises a good point though about the Home button. If you jailbreak the device then you could possibly reprogram that button, however as it is you'd have to cover it.