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Book Review: iPod: The Missing Manual by J. D. Biersdorfer

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It’s hard to believe that almost a decade has passed since Apple introduced the iPod, thus revolutionizing the way we listen to music. Since its original incarnation as a boxy, white gadget with a bulky click wheel, the device has evolved into the Nano, Shuffle, Touch, and the redesigned Classic. Although the iPod remains a cultural and technological phenomenon, do users fully understand everything the portable music player can accomplish? O’Reilly Publishing’s iPod: The Missing Manual clearly demonstrates the iPod’s full capabilities, revealing information even the most seasoned users may not know. Author J. D. Biersdorfer guides the new and experienced owners through full-color illustrations, step-by-step instructions, and often amusing but easily understood language. Indeed, the volume lives up to its motto as “the book that should have been in the box.”

Addressing each iPod model, Biersdorfer explains the basics: how to charge the device, install and set up iTunes, and how to load one’s own CDs onto iTunes iPod family of productsand the iPod. The iTunes store’s vastness may seem overwhelming to new users, so Biersdorfer thoroughly describes how to set up an account, browse through the virtual music, movie, and podcast aisles, and finally how to purchase the files. Confused over the various types of file formats (MP3, WAV, M4V) and whether they are compatible with the music player? Untangling the mysteries, she specifies which formats will work with the iPod, and how to convert other file types. The author carefully avoids overly technical language; for example, she refers to clicking on the “flippy triangle” to view the iPod’s contents through iTunes.

While much of iPod: The Missing Manual may target inexperienced users, seasoned iPod owners will also find much to like. Biersdorfer illustrates the differences between a “smart playlist,” a “Genius playlist,” and the iTunes DJ. Wondering just what the “Ping” service is? The book explains how the social networking service can connect the user with friends and fellow fans, enabling music sharing. Few may know that the iPod can be used as a PDA, storing contacts and calendars. In addition, while the device may be primarily known as a music player, it also functions as an alarm, a photo album that can display slideshows, an e-book reader, and a hard drive that can store regular data files. The Missing Manual provides such valuable information in one place, saving readers multiple trips to the Apple website for time-consuming searches.

One area that could be expanded in future editions is the troubleshooting chapter. The book mostly repeats information from the Apple website, namely the “5 ‘Rs’ of iPod Repair.” While these steps, which involve restarting and reinstalling, can solve many problems, they do not cover every situation. For example, what happens when albums and songs display the wrong artwork? How can users best organize their music and avoid unnecessary duplications? What about playback issues, such as skipping or clicking noises? None of these problems are addressed, and many others could be discussed as well. Future editions should include readers’ questions instead of simply reprinting Apple’s support site.

While iPod: The Missing Manual does not include a CD, it lists a link to the Missing Manuals website. There one can find links to more information concerning iPod-related products such as speakers, TV cables, and freeware and shareware programs. Biersdorfer discusses many of these add-ons in the book. Various screenshots and diagrams should appeal to visual learners, while the author’s explicit instructions are easily understood for beginners and advanced users.

Apple’s support site is still a valuable resource, but iPod: The Missing Manual offers essential information in one place. Biersdorfer proves that many devices possess hidden functions that manufacturers may not reveal. Overall, the book clearly teaches new and longtime owners how to fully unleash the iPod’s considerable power.

 

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About Kit O'Toole

  • c mcconaughy

    This was most informative and makes one
    want to get a copy a read on….
    Thank you

  • http://www.kitotoole.com Kit O’Toole

    Thanks for commenting, Connie!

  • Guy D

    Very nice, well written and informative review. It reminds me of my Christmas iPod Nano gift. For days I tore my head off trying to get the damn thing to work. I read and re-read the instructions like a novel. I poured over the Apple website and read everything there was to know about the iPod Nano. Friends and family boasting familiarity with iPod Christmas morning were suddenly clueless when I solicited them for help. Finally a random text on the Apple website solved my problem – “remove the protective plastic sleeve over the screen before using iPod”. Oh. duh.

  • http://www.kitotoole.com Kit O’Toole

    Thanks for commenting, and loved your story, Guy D! I’ve had things like that happen with electronics, particularly when they come with poorly written directions. Many times the problem can be easily fixed, but manufacturers seem to enjoy making users go through incomprehensible websites, manuals, etc.

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