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The Perfect Thing: How the iPod Shuffles Commerce, Culture, and Coolness [Kindle Edition]

Steven Levy
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $19.99
Kindle Price: $10.99
You Save: $9.00 (45%)
Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
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Book Description

On October 23, 2001, Apple Computer, a company known for its chic, cutting-edge technology -- if not necessarily for its dominant market share -- launched a product with an enticing promise: You can carry an entire music collection in your pocket. It was called the iPod. What happened next exceeded the company's wildest dreams. Over 50 million people have inserted the device's distinctive white buds into their ears, and the iPod has become a global obsession. The Perfect Thing is the definitive account, from design and marketing to startling impact, of Apple's iPod, the signature device of our young century.

Besides being one of the most successful consumer products in decades, the iPod has changed our behavior and even our society. It has transformed Apple from a computer company into a consumer electronics giant. It has remolded the music business, altering not only the means of distribution but even the ways in which people enjoy and think about music. Its ubiquity and its universally acknowledged coolness have made it a symbol for the digital age itself, with commentators remarking on "the iPod generation." Now the iPod is beginning to transform the broadcast industry, too, as podcasting becomes a way to access radio and television programming. Meanwhile millions of Podheads obsess about their gizmo, reveling in the personal soundtrack it offers them, basking in the social cachet it lends them, even wondering whether the device itself has its own musical preferences.

Steven Levy, the chief technology correspondent for Newsweek magazine and a longtime Apple watcher, is the ideal writer to tell the iPod's tale. He has had access to all the key players in the iPod story, including Steve Jobs, Apple's charismatic cofounder and CEO, whom Levy has known for over twenty years. Detailing for the first time the complete story of the creation of the iPod, Levy explains why Apple succeeded brilliantly with its version of the MP3 player when other companies didn't get it right, and how Jobs was able to convince the bosses at the big record labels to license their music for Apple's groundbreaking iTunes Store. (We even learn why the iPod is white.) Besides his inside view of Apple, Levy draws on his experiences covering Napster and attending Supreme Court arguments on copyright (as well as his own travels on the iPod's click wheel) to address all of the fascinating issues -- technical, legal, social, and musical -- that the iPod raises.

Borrowing one of the definitive qualities of the iPod itself, The Perfect Thing shuffles the book format. Each chapter of this book was written to stand on its own, a deeply researched, wittily observed take on a different aspect of the iPod. The sequence of the chapters in the book has been shuffled in different copies, with only the opening and concluding sections excepted. "Shuffle" is a hallmark of the digital age -- and The Perfect Thing, via sharp, insightful reporting, is the perfect guide to the deceptively diminutive gadget embodying our era.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For the iPod's fifth anniversary, Newsweek technology writer and longtime Apple Computer enthusiast Levy (Insanely Great) offers a brightly written paean to "the most familiar, and certainly the most desirable, new object of the twenty-first century." Combining upbeat reportage about the device's origins and development with higher-minded ruminations about its place at "the center of just about every controversy in the digital age," he explores how the iPod "set the technology world, the business world, and especially the music industry on its head." Levy discusses its place in the "movement of portable cocooning" begun by the Sony Walkman, exploring how the ubiquitous white buds are affecting social connections. The book's in-no-particular-sequence chapters—intended to evoke the iPod's shuffle function—don't build much momentum, and there's more about Apple CEO Steve Jobs and his leaps over design and technical hurdles than the average user may need to know. But Levy's zeal and insider anecdotes ("I once found myself in a heated discussion with Bill Gates about the nature of cool") carry things along. Apple fans and iPod owners will enjoy Levy's exploration—and will probably forgive his gushing about the iPod's "universally celebrated, endlessly pleasing, devilishly functional, drop-dead gorgeous design." (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"Loads of fun, jammed with entertaining connections, unexpected riffs, and endless stuff you've never heard of before."

-- Kevin Drum, Washington Monthly


Product Details

  • File Size: 466 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0743285220
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (October 23, 2006)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000MGATVC
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #786,891 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
40 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent history and cultural analysis October 17, 2006
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.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique and Fascinating! October 29, 2006
By BigSur
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!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars iAin't, but no matter December 10, 2006
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.)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 2009: Out of date now, but covers teh origins April 24, 2009
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book November 14, 2007
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Love this book!
Published 5 months ago by Janet
4.0 out of 5 stars Covers the origin of the iPod...
This book is out of date, but it still tells the story of the IPod, which really is fascinating.

It is interesting also because it was written before the IPhone or... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Dr. Oceanfront
2.0 out of 5 stars Just Awful...8 year old, out-dated book.
This is NOT a book...it's a full blown COMMERCIAL that tells us NOTHING about secrets of the I-Pod, or ways to use it or inside tricks at all...NOTHING of interest. Read more
Published 13 months ago by dennis
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and Exceptionally Well Written
If I have one complaint about the Steve Jobs' biography from Walter Isaacson, it's that certain topics could be not covered in sufficient depth. Read more
Published on March 4, 2012 by Phil Simon
4.0 out of 5 stars A good look at the Ipod's History
The Perfect Thing covers the story of the Ipod as it was developed and released to the public. It looks not only at the business and the technology but also the sociological... Read more
Published on December 2, 2011 by Lehigh History Student
5.0 out of 5 stars This Book is a Blast
This book is hardly academic, but it has a lot of fascinating data. It rambles and I love the narration in the audible.com version. The narrator's delivery is awesome. Read more
Published on March 19, 2011 by Charlotte A. Hu
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad...
"The Perfect Thing" is a very light, shallow, but entertaining treatment of various aspects of the impact of the iPod product written by a "technology reporter" who does not seem... Read more
Published on June 22, 2010 by D.E. Wray
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice mixture of history and fashion
"The perfect thing" is everything about iPods. The author is Steven Levy, a technology journalist of Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution fame. Read more
Published on May 22, 2010 by Bas Vodde
5.0 out of 5 stars The catalyst that made it happen
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. Read more
Published on August 12, 2009 by Mariusz Skonieczny
2.0 out of 5 stars Not "Hackers"
I have read Mr. Levy's book "Hackers" several times. I found the information he supplied regarding the early days of computing very entertaining and of interest to me. Read more
Published on June 23, 2009 by Marvin R. Doering
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