The Perfect Thing

THE PERFECT THING….Tomorrow is the 5th anniversary of the iPod, and Steven Levy has celebrated the occasion by writing a paean to the iPod called The Perfect Thing. In the LA Times today, he gives us a preview, including this:

To me, the iPod’s biggest legacy will be the shift it symbolizes by its signature feature, the shuffle. In the simplest sense, this refers to the way iPod users can randomly reorder the contents of their music libraries to create instant radio stations stocked with music they chose. So although you don’t know what song will come next, you know it’s one you’ll almost certainly like.

Remember a few months ago I asked all of you whether you mostly used the shuffle mode on your iPods or mostly picked songs yourself? Now you know why: I was reviewing Levy’s book and was curious to test his belief that the iPod has made shuffle mode the “techna franca of the digital era.” My conclusion was that Levy went a little overboard on this:

But guess what? It turns out that it doesn?t really matter whether Levy is right or wrong about this. It doesn?t even matter that shuffle play has been a commonplace practically since the invention of the CD player. Like much of the book, the chapter on shuffling is just a springboard that allows him to riff on the iPod subculture.

The riffs are pretty good too. Over and over I thought he was about to drift into some kind of banal point about technology or music or whatever, but he invariably surprised me. His observations are consistently intriguing and even a bit addictive, which makes reading the book sort of like eating potato chips. You just can’t stop. It’s not a comprehensive history of everything iPod, but if you’re interested in both the device and the culture it’s spawned, it’s a fun introduction. Recommended.

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