Back in 2004, then-Wired editor Leander Kahney published The Cult of Mac, a photo-filled book containing an array of anecdotes about fans, collectors, and others with special connections to Apple and the Mac. While Kahney took the opportunity to add a chapter on the iPod when the book was published as a paperback edition a couple of years later, the book remains an interesting look at a time when Apple had only recently surfaced from its near-death experience of the 1990s.
As outlined by Kahney in The Cult of Mac, Apple may even have been saved by those devotees to the Mac, some of whom became an army of essentially unpaid evangelists seeking to convert over to Mac anyone and everyone who would listen. Some even went as far as to stake out CompUSA stores to educate or counteract clueless salespeople who only wanted to sell Windows machines and were uninterested in directing customers to the Mac section of the stores, while others shared their love for the Mac with the world through tattoos, stickers, vanity license plates, and more.
Much has changed for Apple in the fifteen years since the original release of The Cult of Mac, with the iPhone launching Apple to its current position as a consumer electronics and lifestyle behemoth. No longer the underdog, Apple has attracted millions upon millions of loyal customers into its ever-expanding ecosystem of devices and services.
So now with 2020 right around the corner, Kahney has teamed up with David Pierini, a writer for Kahney’s independent Cult of Mac site, to release a second edition of The Cult of Mac, another photo-heavy book that would fit right in on any Apple fan’s coffee table. Rather than a revision or update of the original, the second edition of The Cult of Mac is more of a companion book, revisiting some of the same themes but introducing some new ones and sharing new anecdotes about some of Apple’s biggest fans.
The coffee table nature of the second edition of The Cult of Mac is evident before you even open the cover, as the book itself is cleverly designed to resemble one of Apple’s iconic MacBooks, wrapped in a silver plastic jacket with an Apple-shaped title logo on the “lid” of the book. There are even four black “feet” on the rear of the book to match those used on Apple’s notebooks.
Opening the front cover of the book continues the theme, as it reveals a MacBook Pro keyboard and top case with the inside cover serving as a mock display, complete with an overlaid “macOS” app window on the transparent plastic jacket sharing an introductory description of the book. The next several pages of the book including the Table of Contents gradually shift orientation, encouraging the reader to reorient the book from the landscape mock computer into a traditional portrait orientation. It’s all cleverly done and a fun way to dive into the book.
The book itself is an easy read, broken up into short chapters and sections with lots of photos and artistic design elements. The book is about 200 pages and I read it cover to cover in just a couple of hours thanks to the emphasis on visuals over text, but the layout makes it easy to just pick up the book and read a few pages here and there.
Following a brief introduction, the second edition of The Cult of Mac tackles “The Line Sitters,” those who camped out for days ahead of a major product launch, sometimes in an effort to be first to get their hands on Apple’s latest devices and other times just for publicity. Subsequent chapters look at the way Apple fans have paid tribute to Steve Jobs, collectors and museums dedicated to Apple’s products, those in music and photography who have found inspiration from and utility in Apple’s devices, and those who repurpose old Macs for products such as jewelry, aquariums, and more.
The book wraps up with a look at those dedicated Apple fans whose obsessions date back even further than the Mac to the Apple II family, as well as a quick trip around the world to look at fandom in several different countries, including an iPad magician in Germany, the Russian and Ukrainian luxury iPhone markets, and users in the Middle East who use special cases to carry multiple iPhones for work and personal use.
Overall, the second edition of The Cult of Mac is an enjoyable read which, like the original, treads some different ground compared to the many Apple-related biographies and histories that regularly hit the bookshelves, including Kahney’s own biographies of Jony Ive and Tim Cook. It’s also a contrasting type of coffee table book compared to product-focused ones like Apple’s own “Designed in California.”
The Cult of Mac, Second Edition debuts December 17, and it’s available for pre-order now at Amazon in hardcover for $39.95, or if you don’t have a need for the physical book you can pre-order the Kindle edition or Apple Books edition for $23.99.