The Perfect Thing: How the iPod Shuffles Commerce, Culture, and Coolness

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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.
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Written with full cooperation from top management, including cofounders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, this is the inside story behind Google, the most successful and most admired technology company of our time, told by one of our best technology writers.

Few companies in history have ever been as successful and as admired as Google, the company that has transformed the Internet and become an indispensable part of our lives. How has Google done it? Veteran technology reporter Steven Levy was granted unprecedented access to the company, and in this revelatory book he takes readers inside Google headquarters—the Googleplex—to show how Google works.

While they were still students at Stanford, Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin revolutionized Internet search. They followed this brilliant innovation with another, as two of Google’s earliest employees found a way to do what no one else had: make billions of dollars from Internet advertising. With this cash cow, Google was able to expand dramatically and take on other transformative projects: more efficient data centers, open-source cell phones, free Internet video (YouTube), cloud computing, digitizing books, and much more.

The key to Google’s success in all these businesses, Levy reveals, is its engineering mind-set and adoption of such Internet values as speed, openness, experimentation, and risk taking. After its unapologetically elitist approach to hiring, Google pampers its engineers—free food and dry cleaning, on-site doctors and masseuses—and gives them all the resources they need to succeed. Even today, with a workforce of more than 23,000, Larry Page signs off on every hire.

But has Google lost its innovative edge? With its newest initiative, social networking, Google is chasing a successful competitor for the first time. Some employees are leaving the company for smaller, nimbler start-ups. Can the company that famously decided not to be evil still compete?

No other book has ever turned Google inside out as Levy does with In the Plex.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Simon and Schuster
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Published on
Oct 23, 2006
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Pages
304
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ISBN
9780743293914
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / General
Social Science / Popular Culture
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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The New York Times bestselling author of The Rational Optimist and Genome returns with a fascinating argument for evolution that definitively dispels a dangerous, widespread myth: that we can command and control our world.

Human society evolves. Change in technology, language, morality, and society is incremental, inexorable, gradual, and spontaneous. It follows a narrative, going from one stage to the next; it creeps rather than jumps; it has its own spontaneous momentum rather than being driven from outside; it has no goal or end in mind; and it largely happens by trial and error—a version of natural selection. Much of the human world is the result of human action but not of human design: it emerges from the interactions of millions, not from the plans of a few.

Drawing on fascinating evidence from science, economics, history, politics, and philosophy, Matt Ridley demolishes conventional assumptions that the great events and trends of our day are dictated by those on high, whether in government, business, academia, or organized religion. On the contrary, our most important achievements develop from the bottom up. Just as skeins of geese form Vs in the sky without meaning to and ter-mites build mud cathedrals without architects, so brains take shape without brain-makers, learning happens without teaching, and morality changes for no reason other than the prevailing fashion. Although we neglect, defy, and ignore them, bottom-up trends shape the world. The Industrial Revolution, cell phones, the rise of Asia, and the Internet were never planned; they happened. Languages emerged and evolved by a form of natural selection, as did common law. Torture, racism, slavery, and pedophilia—all once widely regarded as acceptable—are now seen as immoral despite the decline of religion in recent decades. In this wide-ranging and erudite book, Ridley brilliantly makes the case for evolution, rather than design, as the force that has shaped much of our culture, our technology, our minds, and that even now is shaping our future.

As compelling as it is controversial, as authoritative as it is ambitious, Ridley’s deeply thought-provoking book will change the way we think about the world and how it works.

Poor, misguided fellow. David Brancaccio, host of public radio's rambunctious and eclectic business program Marketplace, used to think the big problem with money was getting some. Didn't he understand that during a time of bounty the big problem is knowing what to do with money once you have it? It took a conversation with one of the richest guys in America to set him straight.
"I think Warren Buffett's got the problem and Gates has the problem and Bloomberg's got the problem," the billionaire said. "And the problem doesn't just have to be at our level. It can be with people who have just a couple of million bucks." It was the second "just" in that sentence that made tears well up in Brancaccio's eyes.
Most of us once thought the problem was getting some money. Now what?
Squander: to spend or use something precious in a wasteful way. Squandering ranks even below "leaving it in a passbook savings account" on the list of the greatest personal finance sins of our age, according to Brancaccio, who hit the road to determine the right answer to the question of what to do with money. Brancaccio gets this question from Marketplace listeners all the time: What does one do with a lump sum, perhaps the proceeds from some stock options, the profit on the sale of a house, an inheritance, a bonus, a settlement, or even a modest accumulation in a savings account?
A natural storyteller, Brancaccio has a clear, intelligent, and delightfully offbeat way of explaining to his listeners the complexities of business, investing, and the economy. He has access to rivers of market information that should help answer this question of what to do with money. But data do not necessarily equal wisdom, so Brancaccio hit upon the idea of venturing out on a random "walk" to acquire some street smarts.
Imagining a windfall of his own and haunted by his own checkered history with money, Brancaccio embarked on a funny and irreverent personal finance pilgrimage. His travels took him from Minnesota's Mall of America to New York City's Wall Street to one of the poorest towns in the West. He encountered entrepreneurs in California, homeowners in New York, retirees in Arizona, and some folks following their lifelong dreams in Texas. A drifter in a desert offered advice. So did a U.S. secretary of the treasury.
Along the way, Brancaccio was challenged by a cascade of practical and philosophical issues: If consumption drives the economy, is there something wrong with saving? Is there such a thing as a socially responsible investment? Is charity an investment? If you can't beat a Las Vegas casino, can you beat the stock market?
While Brancaccio's journey was a personal one, his eye-opening adventures reveal a great deal about attitudes toward money in America at the dawn of the new century -- and they provide entertaining lessons about how best to spend, invest, and save.
Written with full cooperation from top management, including cofounders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, this is the inside story behind Google, the most successful and most admired technology company of our time, told by one of our best technology writers.

Few companies in history have ever been as successful and as admired as Google, the company that has transformed the Internet and become an indispensable part of our lives. How has Google done it? Veteran technology reporter Steven Levy was granted unprecedented access to the company, and in this revelatory book he takes readers inside Google headquarters—the Googleplex—to show how Google works.

While they were still students at Stanford, Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin revolutionized Internet search. They followed this brilliant innovation with another, as two of Google’s earliest employees found a way to do what no one else had: make billions of dollars from Internet advertising. With this cash cow, Google was able to expand dramatically and take on other transformative projects: more efficient data centers, open-source cell phones, free Internet video (YouTube), cloud computing, digitizing books, and much more.

The key to Google’s success in all these businesses, Levy reveals, is its engineering mind-set and adoption of such Internet values as speed, openness, experimentation, and risk taking. After its unapologetically elitist approach to hiring, Google pampers its engineers—free food and dry cleaning, on-site doctors and masseuses—and gives them all the resources they need to succeed. Even today, with a workforce of more than 23,000, Larry Page signs off on every hire.

But has Google lost its innovative edge? With its newest initiative, social networking, Google is chasing a successful competitor for the first time. Some employees are leaving the company for smaller, nimbler start-ups. Can the company that famously decided not to be evil still compete?

No other book has ever turned Google inside out as Levy does with In the Plex.
The true story of Ira Einhorn, the Philadelphia antiwar crusader, environmental activist, and New Age guru with a murderous dark side.

During the cultural shockwaves of the 1960s and ’70s, Ira Einhorn—nicknamed the “Unicorn”—was the leading radical voice for the antiwar movement at the University of Pennsylvania. At his side were such noted activists as Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. A brilliantly articulate advocate for peace in a turbulent era, he rallied followers toward the growing antiestablishment causes of free love, drugs, and radical ecological reform.
 
In 1979, when the mummified remains of his girlfriend, Holly Maddux, a Bryn Mawr flower child from Tyler, Texas, were found in a trunk in his apartment, Einhorn claimed a CIA frame-up. Incredibly, the network of influential friends, socialites, and powerful politicians he’d charmed and manipulated over the years supported him. Represented by renowned district attorney and future senator Arlen Specter, Einhorn was released on bail. But before trial, he fled the country to an idyllic town in the French wine region and disappeared. It would take more than twenty years—and two trials—to finally bring Einhorn to justice.
 
Based on more than two years of research and 250 interviews, as well as the chilling private journals of Einhorn and Maddux, prize-winning journalist Steven Levy paints an astonishing and complicated portrait of a man motivated by both genius and rage. The basis for 1998 NBC television miniseries The Hunt for the Unicorn Killer, The Unicorn’s Secret is a “spellbinding sociological/true crime study,” revealing the dark and tragic dimensions of a man who defined an era, only to shatter its ideals (Publishers Weekly).
 
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