Review: Cult of Mac

It will come as no surprise there\'s a strong strain of believerdom... (December 13th, 2004)

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Product Manufacturer: No Starch Press

Price: $39.95

The Good

  • Fun, revealing look into the world of Mac devotees; hardback book, with full-color photos throughout; Macintosh visual references built in to the book’s layout.

The Bad

  • Requires OS X 10.3. (I’m kidding, folks. I’m kidding.)

I suppose any book that devotes an entire chapter to Mac tattoos and haircuts can't be all bad. And neither can Leander Kahney, the guy who's written the book.

Kahney has written his "Cult of Mac" blog on Wired.com for almost three years, covering topics ranging from the serious (OS X security holes) to the not-so-serious (the man who furnished his apartment with iMac boxes). Now, he brings his look at Macficianados to hardback; No Starch Press has published "The Cult of Mac," just in time for the holiday season. It's clearly a tabletop book; more than 500 four-color photos make for great eye candy, starting with the chap who has an Apple logo haircut. He's on the cover.

Mac fans will instantly be entranced from the opening page (where the only word is "BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGGGGGG"); those who aren't, won't. In fact, they won't get any of this book. They won't appreciate the way the Mac look and feel is incorporated throughout the printed graphics. They won't comprehend the chapter that talks about the Mac's erotic appeal to its rabidly faithful users ("It's just a computer," I can hear them cry. Well, yes. And no.)

Kahney uses the book to highlight the foibles of Mac faithful around the globe, saying that "Mac love: Japanese style" clearly outdoes anything we North Americans or Europeans can muster. He cites the "Mac otaku," or geeks, like the fellow who "...has created dozens of dinky replicas of most of Apple's more recent machines out of paper." He even delves into the Japanese subculture of the PowerBook 2400, Apple's attempt at a subcompact, which failed in the American market. In Japan, however, Kahney says the faithful will pay up to $25,000 to upgrade their '2400s. (Hey, it was a good machine; I used one for about a year. But $25,000? C'mon.)

Macquariums are shown in their glory, as are many of the fantasy Mac designs from artists around the globe. (He shows an iMac design from one fellow, who Kahney says "became so obsessed with mocking up Macs, he neglected his business.")

It will come as no surprise to anyone in the Mac community that there's a strong thread of True Believerdom running through "The Cult of Mac." Kahney quotes one behavioral expert as saying many of the Mac users he talked with believe that they are martyrs, making sacrifices and being persecuted for their choice of computers. But the quote that resonates with me is the final one in the book; "One realizes that people are dedicated to Macintosh because it just works."

(Actually, that quote may resonate with you for another reason: Kahney reprinted it...indeed, he reprinted an entire article that he originally wrote for Wired.com in December 2002. If you read Kahney's blog on any sort of regular basis, you will recognize many of the individual stories throughout the book. There's nothing wrong with that, of course; they were his words to begin with. But I wish he had made at least a passing reference to it in his introduction, rather than just a one-paragraph reference on the "all rights reserved" page.)

Overall, "The Cult of Mac" is a fun book, one that any self-respecting Mac addict will delight in receiving as a present, and displaying on the coffee table. That is, if they can keep wiping the drool off the pages.

by Steve Friedberg


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