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The Perfect Thing: How the Ipod Shuffles Commerce, Culture, And Coolness Unknown Binding – Abridged, 17 Oct 2006


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Product details

  • Unknown Binding
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (a); Abridged edition (17 Oct. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743561252
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743561259
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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About the Author

Steven Levy is a senior writer at Wired, and was formerly senior editor and chief technology correspondent for Newsweek. He is the author of six previous books, including Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, which was voted the best sci-tech nonfiction book of the last twenty years by readers of PC magazine, and Insanely Great, the definitive account of the Macintosh computer. A native of Philadelphia, Levy lives in New York City with his wife, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Teresa Carpenter, and their son. Visit the author at www.stevenlevy.com --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Walton TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 15 July 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've read a few of Levy's other books, and found him a talented writer on technical subjects. Here, he turns his attention to the iPod, and does a nice job at teasing out its history, development, appeal and impact. Just about everything you might want to know about this remarkable machine is contained in these pages, although Levy doesn't mention the assertion that Steve Jobs' hands-on involvement in its development caused its output to be made somewhat louder, since he is partially deaf.

To be sure, some of these themes are better developed than others: Levy's very good on the hardware development story and the way in which music has become dissociated from its physical medium (LP, CD, etc) through its transformation into computer files. He's also paints a cogent picture of the history of technical developments in this area, and the way in which the tardiness with which the music industry has reacted has brought about its downfall (he points out that their first encounter with every development resulted in them suing the perpetrator, which he thinks is like trying to turn back time). I found his attempts to define "coolness" less convincing, although there can be no doubt that such an epithet applies to the iPod.

And finally, I thought Levy's idea of "spiritually link[ing]" his book to its subject by shuffling the chapters was misguided in the extreme: books aren't like collections of songs because they (usually) only get looked at once, and people only come across a single copy, in which the sequence is fixed. For an author to assert that his chapters could be read in any order doesn't sound like a good recommendation for the structure of his book.
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Format: Paperback
Apple took off with the success of iPod in 2001. Before iPod, Apple was mainly popular among computer enthusiasts who were viewed by the general public as geeks. Then, iPod made it cool to be associated with Apple. The author explains just how important music is to people. A person's music collection defines oneself. Others can make judgments about someone else by looking at their music collection in their iPod. A great collection determines a person's status. Acceptance and status are extremely powerful forces especially among teenagers. The author also argues that popularity of iPod created a "halo effect" that boosted sales of other Apple products. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone interested in Apple.

- Mariusz Skonieczny, author of Why Are We So Clueless about the Stock Market? Learn how to invest your money, how to pick stocks, and how to make money in the stock market
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By Rolf Dobelli TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 27 Jun. 2007
Format: Hardcover
Why do people ask for an iPod when they want an MP3 player? Other players hold as many or more songs, and play them just as well. Owning an iPod is more about music than about keeping up with the latest trends. That is why the iPod still holds the top spot in MP3 player sales. Author Steven Levy explores how the iPod came to be and how it earned its status as a cultural icon. Even the book's iPod-looking cover could evoke emotion from an iPod fan. We recommend this book to iPod lovers who will relish its story. Businesspeople, trend spotters and marketers also will gain insight into the way Apple made millions from selling music, machines and coolness.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 29 reviews
40 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Excellent history and cultural analysis 18 Oct. 2006
By Jason Snell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I get an avalanche of technology-related books mailed to me, and it's rare when I actually try to read one. It's even rarer for me to read it all the way through with a smile pasted on my face the entire time. But that's what happened as I read Steven Levy's "The Perfect Thing."

As someone who has covered the iPod (and, indeed, was at the iPod launch event in Cupertino in 2001), it was great to see Levy's mixture of iPod history with an analysis of how the iPod (and similar products, like the Walkman) have impacted our lives and the world of popular culture. Levy's book is never dry, and combines a historical account of the creation of the 21st century's first iconic product with a real attempt to analyze what makes the iPod both ubiquitous and cool.

Whether you're a fan of Apple's product-creation geniuses, or just of the "perfect storm" of technology that created this particular Perfect Thing, Steven Levy's book is a fun, informative, and thought-provoking analysis of the biggest technological innovation of the past five years.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Unique and Fascinating! 30 Oct. 2006
By BigSur - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Steven Levy has written an excellent book that I didn't want to put down. It not only traces the development of the iPod over the last five years, but the book is filled with independent chapters that can be, and in fact should be, read in any order. Indeed, when looking at multiple copies of this book, you'll find only chapter 1 is in the same place--other chapters are "shuffled" and appear in different orders. I found myself enjoying this feature as much as the iPod--first I read about Podcasts, then Downloading, then how the iPod remains so "cool" for such a wide range of people.

I chose to read this book not only because of how amazed I am at how people (including my teenaged kids) love their iPods so much, but also because I'm curious about the future of music as we know it, the disappearance of the CD and along with it the album cover and lyric booklet, and the explosion of songs available for purchase through the iTunes store.

The writing in this book is terrific--informative and provocative. I highly recommend it!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
iAin't, but no matter 10 Dec. 2006
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I have had portable MP3 players longer than most people I know (first one: Diamond Rio 500), without ever owning an iPod (current model: Sansa e260, Hall of Fame: Rio Karma). I have never owned a Mac. While I have a copy of iTunes on my Windows Media Center machine, I don't use it much (lately I've been using URGE To Go).

But Steven Levy is a fine writer with a lot of connections and a personal history to the subject matter of this book. And so, it's a very good book, even though I felt like an outsider as I read it (perhaps ironically, I read it on my Treo). As many have noted, it's a bit too pro-Apple/Jobs, and too often Levy slides through with the easy "yes, others were there first, but iPods are cooler" comments. But the overall result is excellent. Since the chapters are standalones, you'll like some better than you'll like others, depending on your interests. My favorite chapter was on shuffle play, which combines history, science, and philosophy in equal parts. (Just remember, correlation doesn't equal causation.)
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2009: Out of date now, but covers teh origins 25 April 2009
By Dave Millman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Other reviewers have covered the contents of this book pretty well. I just read it (April 2009), and wanted to offer two criticisms from a 2009 perspective:

1. As you would expect from a book published in 2006, there is no mention of the iPhone or iPod Touch, which were introduced in Summer 2007. Unfortunately for this book, the iPhone and Touch rather masterfully complete the iPod family, combining playback with communication and portable web browsing. I haven't yet seen an industry observer who understood how well Apple has rounded out their iPod product line with the Touch (touch control, big screen, WiFi, browsing, music, App Store) and iPhone (all that plus phone).

2. Although he acknowledges the depth, simplicity and market leadership of iTunes, Levy treats iTunes as an iPod feature. But without iTunes, iPod is just a deluxe, expensive MP3 player, much like the Mac is a deluxe, expensive computer. iTunes is why iPod has 70% market share in MP3 players: iPod + iTunes is a whole product, with enjoyable music shopping and simple downloads. Creative and Microsoft and others have copied and continue to copy iPod, but nobody else has come close to the whole product.

Summary: enjoyable read, but dated and getting less comprehensive by the day.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I love this book 15 Nov. 2007
By David Wilson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had no idea how much fun this book would be. I expected to learn how the iPod was developed, and I did. I expected to read about how cool the iPod is, and I did. I expected to read about the way the iPod changed both Apple and the music industry, and I did.

I did not expect to laugh out loud every few minutes, but I did. Steven Levy is a great writer - his knowledge of Apple combined with his knowledge of popular music makes the book great fun to read. Levy is simply an excellent writer, writing about an excellent product.

As a bonus, this is a valuable book to read if you design products of any kind, because it provides insights into how exceptional products are created - i.e., fanatical attention to detail, and an inner drive to make not just a good product, but a great one.

If you like music and technology, I guarantee you will enjoy this book. Of course, I own a couple of iPods, so I am biased. If you own a Zune, you may disagree. But even Zune owners might find it interesting to see how great products are designed.
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