Top critical review
More marketing than journalism here
on April 9, 1999
In the author's relentlessly self-promoting Introduction to his own book, he writes, "If you read only one book about Apple, make it Apple Confidential." After the first chapter, I realized that if I finished this book, I had better make sure it *wasn't* the only book I read about Apple.
(Note to No Starch Press: it's fine to have someone praise a book's "meticulous research" and "engaging format", but such praise tends to lose its credibility when it comes from the author himself.)
I agree with other reviewers that the book is full of Apple lore that will interest Apple fans, and the style is readable and lively. However, the book doesn't hold together either as a narrative history or as an investigation into what makes Apple work or not work. The chapters are liberally sprinkled with sidebars, marginal quotations, timelines, illustrations, and so on, much in the style of the Mac magazine articles that the author writes. However, the same style doesn't work well for a full-length book, with perhaps the exception of the author's previous "Mac Bathroom Reader." (How many people really want to read ten pages' worth of code names for Apple projects? Another puzzling feature is the marginal quotations, which are often attributed to a speaker without any other indication of context, sometimes expressing dramatically different points of view than those being explored in the pages where they appear.) The resulting impression is that this isn't a complete history-just a collection of stories the author considers most interesting.
The timelines that accompany each chapter are illustrative, but the author's thematic organization of the book results not only in the repetition noted by the Amazon reviewer but also in the fact that many of them overlap. It would be interesting to see the merged together, to get an impression of how the separate themes of the book come together in Apple's complete history.
It's hard to tell what justifies the "Confidential" of the title, or the subtitle "The Real Story of Apple Computer, Inc". There's no way to tell what information comes from the twenty-some books the author cites in his bibliography and what may be due the dozens of individuals the author thanks in his acknowledgments.
All in all, "Apple Confidential" seems be more a triumph of marketing than of journalism.