The Perfect Thing Book Review

The iPod has that certain something that leads its users to adore it like nothing before. People want nothing but an iPod. No substitutes even when the non-iPod has more memory comes in your favorite color and costs over $100 less than an iPod. So how did the iPod earn this special treatment and the ability to compel people to say, “Cool” when they hold one?

A book cover in the disguise of an iPod, albeit on paper, still manages to ooze coolness though it isn’t the real thing. Scroll your finger over the cover’s button and scroll wheel and you can feel the smooth button extend slightly above the scroll wheel. Apple has established itself as a company that goes all out when creating a product, but there’s much more to the iPod story than people realize. The Perfect Thing explores many aspects of the story.

As a deaf person, I’m hardly the music lover who would take an interest in the iPod. I received the book as an abstract assignment and it gripped me from page 1 to the index. I received an iPod video for a gift (I do enjoy some songs that I pick up and learn by heart. Plus, I used it to listen to children’s books in audio to practice listening), but someone stole it.

While reading The Perfect Thing, I couldn’t help but order an iPod Nano straight from Apple’s Web site complete with my name engraved on its beautiful red skin. I also bought a cover to protect the iPod as I don’t like it when my gadgets get marks on them. But then I reached the part where Steve Jobs took offense to seeing Levy’s iPod covered up. Because of that, the beautiful red color and the way the aluminum felt — I took off the cover for good.

The chapters, like iPod’s shuffle feature, are independent and don’t go in a specific order except for the first chapter. I don’t know if that’s true, as I haven’t seen another hard copy of the book.

“Perfect,” goes behind the scenes of iPod’s launch on October 2001, not the greatest timing after 9/11. “Download” covers the revolution of downloading and digitizing music including codec, MP3s, WinAmp, Napster and the record companies suing. “What makes an item cool?” sets the tone for the chapter titled, “Cool.”

Can there be a formula for coolness? This chapter teaches great marketing lessons from Apple’s design, packaging, and advertising of the iPod.

“Origin” returns to the iPod’s roots on its development and the things that came before iPod that affected the iPod’s creation. There’s a reason we use the word podcast instead of audiocasts when referring to audio feeds. “Podcast” visits the formation of citizen broadcasting from CB radio to podcasting.

People judge each other by the clothing they wear, they do the same by the playlists they carry in their iPods as “Identity” delves into the fashion statement of playlists. No one expected Apple to make a comeback, not even when Steve Jobs returned in 2000, and “Apple” touches upon the comeback and how Apple surpassed the market’s expectations.

The iPod attracts thieves and the earbuds send a message to the public “to leave me alone” as the “Personal” chapter looks back at the Sony Walkman, the white earbuds, hearing loss and how users personalize their iPods.

The shuffle feature scrambles music hence the name for the cheapest and smallest iPod Shuffle. The feature is simple, yet the chapter on “Shuffle” offers a fascinating insight into the possibility of a conspiracy behind the shuffle formula.

Some people swear that some songs, artists and whatnot get more attention than others do. But everyone at Apple, including the engineers, says shuffle works randomly. Intriguing stuff anyway.

Marketers, iPod lovers, Apple lovers, Mac lovers, business people, technology people, gadget people. The book will appeal to all of them. After all, Levy writes, “The iPod is a pebble with tsunami-sized cultural ripples.”

Title: The Perfect Thing: How the iPod Shuffles Commerce, Culture, and Coolness
Author: Steven Levy
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 0743285220
Date: October 2006
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 304

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