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REVIEWED: Here are the most interesting parts of Apple's new $300 book

Apple Book
Apple Book

(Kif Leswing/Business Insider)

"This is a book with very few words," Apple Chief Design Officer Jony Ive writes in the foreword to "Designed by Apple in California," a new collectible coffee table book by Apple that went on sale on Wednesday.

He's right. Besides the foreword, which is relatively short, the book's 300 or so pages are all dedicated to big, beautiful photos of Apple products that came out in the last 20 years, from 1998 to 2015, and of the tools that make them.

It seems like a perfect gift for Apple fans this Christmas. The book comes in two sizes, a smaller version that costs $199, and a bigger book — almost too big for a coffee table — that costs $299.

The books are likely to be in limited supply. An Apple Store worker in New York City told me that they only got "like eight" of each, and another employee said that it seems like Apple wants them to be limited. Only a few stores are selling them right now.

So is it worth it for an Apple aficionado? After carefully perusing each page and every photo in the book on Wednesday, I decided not to buy it. I can spend the $200 on way more fun things — like Snapchat's Spectacles, or a discounted Apple Watch.

Here's why:


Apple Book
Apple Book

(Kif Leswing/Business Insider)

The main reason why you would buy Ive's vanity project is because you admire Apple's approach to industrial design and would like to look at pictures of some of the company's iconic products. Online photos don't do the book justice.

In that case, the book won't disappoint.

But my problem, as an Apple fan, is there is too much in the book that I've seen before. I think a lot of people who follow closely will agree.

A large percentage of the photos in the book have been seen in one way or another — usually distributed by Apple itself as promotional images when the product came out. There is an argument to be made that these are the definitive photos of these products. They were all shot by Andrew Zuckerman, a photographer who has worked closely with Apple in the past.

But some of the coolest parts of the book are never-before seen process photos, like the drill bits used by Apple to shape its aluminum casings. There's one page that shows how an iPhone shell is drilled out.

Apple Book
Apple Book

(Kif Leswing/Business Insider)

There's also a few cool photos of Apple products after they've been well-used and loved.

Apple Book Glass
Apple Book Glass

(Kif Leswing/Business Insider)

One photo shows how Apple tests the iPhone glass to see in what conditions it would break. It's a fascinating image, but there is no context, just an image. I was left wondering why Apple might do this, what it learned from the test, or what happens when the glass actually breaks.

There also are not many photos of the hundreds of prototypes Ive's team legendarily creates before deciding on a final form.

The book simply does not have enough of this fascinating content — if you're buying it, you're buying it for photos that are very similar to photos that can be downloaded on Apple's press site.

Design and form

Apple Book Linen
Apple Book Linen

(Kif Leswing/Business Insider)

There is some precedent for a lush, image-focused book to cost $200 or $300. Louis Vuitton, for example, has a similar lookbook product that costs $845. Ferrari's book costs thousands of dollars.

Ive's team did the design for the book, and given his focus on detail, his team picked the paper and developed custom inks. "Of course, many of these products are white, so the off-the-shelf printing processes really didn't do an adequate job in describing the colour and surface of those products. So, unsurprisingly we ended up developing custom forms of paper and custom inks," Ive told Wallpaper.

The book is printed and bound in China, and uses "custom low ghost Epple inks" and 280 line screen printing, according to its appendix.

Its paper is "Apple-specific" Heaven 42 paper made in Germany. James Cropper, a UK company, contributes "Color Plan, bespoke color." The linen on its cover comes from Bamberger Kaliko, in Germany, which is using "bespoke dye."

However, the book itself is not that special. It's nice, sure, but it's not anything groundbreaking or particularly special, especially if you've seen art books before.

It's a big book

The book seems destined to become an item on a shelf at design academies and art schools, not something that individual Apple consumers would flock to.

The book's two sizes are: small (10.20” x 12.75”) and large (13” x 16.25”).

When I first encountered the book, I though the small version was the large version. The large version is big enough that it feels like a reference book. Here are photos, with a quarter for scale.


Apple Book
Apple Book

(Kif Leswing/Business Insider)


Apple Book
Apple Book

(Kif Leswing/Business Insider)

The main way most people will encounter the large version is as a book in an art library.

"Another key point is that the book is being sent to all the major design colleges in the world. We are keen to get it into the hands of young people who are studying design disciplines," Ive told Wallpaper.

If anything, the book seems like Ive's victory lap, and his attempt at making sure his groundbreaking designs land in the design school canon — not that the canonization of Apple design needed any help.

"We attempt to develop forms that achieve an integrity between external surfaces and internal components," Ive wrote in the book's foreword. "Above all, I have come to feel sure that human beings sense care in the same way we sense carelessness. I do think we respond, maybe not consciously, to something much bigger than the object."

"We hope that this archive is seen as intended: a gentle gathering of some of the products we have designed over the last few years. We hope it brings understanding to how and why they exist," Ive wrote.

Not a complete catalog

Apple book
Apple book

(Kif Leswing/Business Insider)

It's important to realize that not every Apple product from the last 20 years made it into the book. "We begin this archive with the translucent iMac of 1998, and we conclude with the Apple Pencil of 2015. We have not included all our work in the interm, only those products that seem significant, that demonstrate learning, or for which we simply have affection," Ive wrote.

The book does not linger on any one product. It presents a few photos of the item, its internals, and its construction, and moves on to the next one.

Of course, you might be wondering if your personal favorite Apple product is included. Here's a list of all the products photographed in the book, in chronological order and the order they are presented in the book:

  • iMac

  • iBook

  • Apple Cinema Display

  • Apple Cinema HD Display

  • Power Mac G4 Cube

  • Apple Cube Speakers

  • Apple Pro Mouse

  • iSub 2000 Subwoofer

  • Power Mac G4

  • Titanium PowerBook G4

  • iPod

  • iMac G4

  • eMac

  • PowerBook G4

  • iSight

  • Power Mac G5

  • Apple Wireless Keyboard

  • iBook G4

  • 45W Power Adapter

  • iPod mini

  • iPod mini Belt Clip

  • iPod mini Lanyard

  • iPod In-Ear Headphones

  • Cinema Display

  • iPod

  • iMac G5

  • iMac G5 with iSight

  • iPod Socks

  • iPod shuffle

  • iPod shuffle Sport Case

  • iPod nano

  • iPod Leather Case

  • iPod

  • iPod Hi-Fi

  • MacBook

  • iPod nano

  • iPod shuffle

  • In-Ear Headphones

  • iPhone

  • iPhone Headphones

  • iMac

  • Apple Keyboard

  • iPod nano

  • iPod touch

  • iPod classic

  • MacBook Air

  • iPhone 3G

  • iPod touch

  • LED Cinema Display

  • MacBook Pro

  • iPod shuffle

  • iMac

  • Magic Mouse

  • MacBook

  • iPod nano

  • iPad

  • iPhone 4

  • iPhone 4 Bumpers

  • Mac mini

  • iPod nano

  • iPod shuffle

  • iPod touch

  • Apple TV

  • Apple Remote

  • MacBook Air

  • iPad 2

  • iPad 2 Smart Cover

  • MacBook Pro

  • MagSafe Power Adapter

  • Apple EarPods

  • iPod nano

  • iPod touch

  • iMac

  • iPhone 5s

  • iPhone 5s Leather Case

  • iPhone 5c Case

  • iPhone 5c

  • iPad mini

  • iPad mini Smart Cover

  • iPad Air Smart Case

  • Mac Pro

  • iPhone 6

  • iPhone 6 Plus

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