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Book Review: iPod, Therefore I Am by Dylan Jones

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I’m kind of ashamed to admit it: I don’t have an iPod. Yet.

The trouble with all kinds of technology is that you can only win by waiting. It’ll only get better, or the price will come down. But still there’s this unavoidable feeling of missing out.

The feeling didn’t get any better when I read iPod, Therefore I Am by Dylan Jones. But while the book says a lot about the little white box, it says even more about the iPod’s effect on society, and in that respect it’s a fascinating slice of life – what the world was like in 2005.

Sounds like a kind of frivolous subject, but this book actually knocked me off track from the other “current affairs” book I was reading, The End of Oil. (Maybe that makes me frivolous, I don’t know.)

Jones uses his very personal experiences with music to paint a picture of music’s impact in the 20th century. He’s vulnerable enough to let us see his slightly obsessive behaviour when it comes to music. Either he’s got very little to lose, or he knows many of his readers will feel the same way about their music collections as he does about his.

This book will open your eyes to a huge change in the way we consume media in the 21st century. It’s not just iPods, but the iPod has led the charge in a user-controlled media world. Now we can dissect the magic moments of our lives, examine and reflect on why they inspired us so much.

This is the era of the collector. Sure there were collectors before, but more than ever collectors have a sense of ownership. Even if the record companies disagree.

I can relate, even though I don’t have an iPod. Over the past few months I bought several Star Trek movies that had appealed to me as a kid. Seen as glimpses on TV, these films left me with a feeling of sheer wonder. Just a feeling.

Now, 20 years later, I can do a frame-by-frame advance on the magical moments, identify the specific sections of music score that inspired me, and uncover all the special effects secrets with text commentary. If I can’t find anything out on the DVD, there’s always the internet.

Okay, so I’m talking about DVD and internet, not iPod, but if the current trend is anything to go by, such distinctions won’t mean much in ten years.

Frivolous? I think not. You’ll laugh as you read iPod, Therefore I Am, but you’ll also reflect on the implications of a future that is already here.

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About Simon Young

  • it’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out. for me, the collector will always want a physical object.

    plus, given the size of my collection, i’d get tendinitis in my thumb just trying to make a single selection on the ipod.

  • Eric Olsen

    I think your DVD analogy is perfectly legit and illustrative, but maybe you should let the readers know what an iPod does in the first place and set up the MP3-DVD analogy.

    Like Mark, I still want the physical stuff to feel the real sense of ownership – I like to look at it AS a collection, which I guess you can do digitally, but with one less dimension

  • I’m curious why you chose to review this book even though you don’t have an ipod. I know what it feels like to be missing out though… I don’t have one yet either (hoping to get one after the prices come down a bit!).

  • Thanks all for your comments. Nukapai, I read this book because, despite not having an iPod, I’ve got a really strong interest in what’s happening in the world today. And what’s more, when I read how Dylan used his iPod, I realised that’s the kind of mindset I’ve been using with plain ol’ Windows Media Player – really enjoying the randomness of never knowing what comes up next: Bach, Marilyn Manson, Stevie Wonder, Kanye West, Beethoven!

    Eric, thanks for your feedback. To elaborate a little bit more on what an iPod does in the first place … well, it’s a portable music player that you can choose to play randomly, or create playlists based on any number of variables.

    For instance, you can choose to hear only songs that have the word “Big” in the title. Or only songs by the Beatles. Or only songs recorded in the 1950s. The possibilities are endless!

    The analogy with having a DVD collection – it’s about being able to arrange your collectibles as you wish. In my case, I’m able to watch the first episode Captain Kirk was ever in (“Where No Man Has Gone Before”, 1965) and then see straight afterwards the story where he finally dies (“Star Trek: Generations”, 1994).

    As for preferring physical collectibles, I can understand where you’re coming from, but living in a small house, I’m happy to have most of my music on computer, where I can find it very easily. And the iPod itself is designed to be very desirable – it looks cool, feels cool, and is a very convenient size. There’s a whole chapter in the book about the design process for the iPod, and interviews with Jonathan Ives, the designer.