Friday, February 09, 2007

The Perfect Thing

I’m a technology freak, I admit. As an early adaptor of new technology, I’ve wasted enough money on new gadgets to pay for a small car. I have suddenly-out-of-date electronic players and recorders stashed in closets and drawers all over the house, so many of them that I can’t even remember how some of them were intended to work or what they were to do for me that some previous generation of machine didn’t already do.

I love my iPod, “love” being the key word in that phrase. But my 60-gig iPod photo is not quite two years old and I’m already lusting after one of the new, smaller 80-gig video ones. Only a display of more than my normal level of willpower has kept me from relegating my first love iPod to the closet so that I can replace it with the electronic version of a new trophy wife. On an almost daily basis, I shuffle the 15,301 songs I’ve uploaded so that I can experience an always new mix of some of my favorite music and artists. That bit of personal history might explain why I found Steven Levy’s book about Apple and its creation of the iPod to be both fascinating and fun to read…and why I can’t imagine a better name for the book than the one Levy chose, The Perfect Thing.

The Perfect Thing has been divided into an introduction, a coda and eight chapters that each take on an aspect of the Apple iPod. Cleverly, Levy has written each of the eight chapters as a stand-alone unit that is not dependent on the reader having read the preceding chapter or chapters. This allowed Levy and publisher Simon & Schuster to do the iPod-like thing of “shuffling” the chapters from print run to print run. That means that the copy of the book that I read will most likely not be in the same order as the copy of the book that you might read. In my version of the book, the eight chapters are in this order: Identity, Origin, Cool, Personal, Download, Shuffle, Apple and Podcast. The book is, of course, filled with facts and stories about the creation and design work associated with the iPod and about the history of Apple and its CEO Steve Jobs. But I particularly enjoyed the chapters on the iPod “cool factor” and the amazing impact that the shuffle function has had on the way that people learn, think and employ the media today.

If you’re an iPod aficionado already, I guarantee that you will have an enthusiastically positive reaction to this book. If you’ve only been looking at the whole iPod experience from the outside, this may be the book to finally free that inner geek inside you.

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