Yes, you read it right, its possible to directly connect a memory card or digi cam to your iPad and download photos from Memory card or a digital camera to the iPad.
Although you need to purchase the hardware accessories from Apple for the same. There is an iPad Camera Connection Kit for people who love to carry their iPod with them and want to transfer photos from their digital camera on the go without need to have a computer to do the intermediate role.
The iPad Camera Connection Kit is available on apple store and costs $29. It includes two connectors which connect to iPad via the dock connector. At a time, you can use one of these. One of these is a USB to iPad which supports direct connection of a Digital Camera via Camera’s USB data cable.
The other connector supports SD cards directly, its a iPad to SD card connector and avoids the need to have any data cable to complete the Photos transfer from SD card to the iPad. This may not work when the camera does not use a standard SD card, as with some digital cameras which use other cards like M2, XD cards, Compact flash etc. For such cameras, the former adaptor would be the solution.
You can purchase it for yourself here.