Apple

A look behind the scenes at the ultimate gift for Apple aficionados

Jordan Golson talks to Jonathan Zufi about the new version of his book, "Iconic: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation."

Iconic: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation

Jonathan Zufi decided to take some of his thousands of photos of Apple products and collect them into a giant, self-published coffee table book. The result was Iconic: A Photographic Tribute to Apple, a 350-page tome filled with gorgeous pictures of products from Apple's 30-year history.

The first run sold out (and has 82 unanimously positive reviews on Amazon), and Zufi has released a second edition with 16 additional pages of photographs. The book is available on Amazon for $52 (USD), but it's currently backordered. There are also other versions, including a special edition of the original book that comes with an Apple II-esque case for $250 (USD).

The most interesting release, however, is the Ultimate Edition, which includes a custom LED in the cover that pulses like a sleeping Apple notebook. It's available through the Iconic website for $250 (USD).

The books themselves are gorgeous and would look good on any technology enthusiast's coffee table — or perhaps under a Christmas tree!

Here's my lightly edited interview with Jonathan Zufi:

What gave you the idea to do a coffee table book focusing on photography of Apple products?

"In 2009, I came up with the idea of capturing vintage Apple gear in high definition after browsing through the Vintage Computing section of eBay. It seemed to me that the audience of Apple fans that delight in the company's history would appreciate seeing past products in high definition. I started the project by launching a website called Shrine of Apple, and then I started to focus on producing the book around 2011."

How long did it take to assemble?

"The project took four years, which included purchasing about 500 products on eBay, photographing them in multiple angles/positions/configurations for a total of about 150,000 photos, culling that list down to about 750 (which are included in the book), touching up the photos, designing and laying out the book, and then all of the logistics required to self publish the book to publication when it launched in 2013. Since the launch last year, I've taken several more photos for the 2014 Edition that has just launched (check it out at the Iconic website)."

Did you do the photography yourself?

"I took the vast majority of photos, but I did have some help — mainly with products that were in parts of the country I couldn't get to or with very small windows of opportunity to shoot a product when I was traveling for my day job. Forest McMullin helped me edit and curate the collection and also guided me in terms of lighting, etc. Lisa Clark designed the book itself coming up with the layout, tone, and feel of the book. The three of us made a great team, and I'm really thrilled with the final product."

Where did all the products come from?

"Most came from eBay. Some were borrowed from collectors (mainly prototypes) from around the country who allowed me to visit them and photograph their amazing collections. In one instance (the UniDisk prototype), the collector was based in Italy and agreed to FedEx me the unit to photograph, which I then turned around and FedEx'd right back. He paid about $5,000 for it, so that was a little nervracking! I've been to Portland and many storage lockers in California — there are some really amazing collections out there."

How successful was the first book, and were there always plans to update it?

"As a self published 6-pound, 350-page coffee table book, the first edition did really well. I pretty much sold out of my first print run and shipped the book to Apple fans in over 50 countries. I'm proud to say that many people at Apple bought a copy, and their feedback was universally positive and appreciative (Note: Apple has not publicly endorsed the book or my work at all, and I don't expect them to).

"I've just updated the book with a new cover and 16 new pages of photos — the second revision brings the book a little more up to date (although not completely, as I missed the iPhone 6 due to the time it takes to prep the printer and transporting the books via sea). I've also created a new packaging concept called the 'Ultimate Edition' that comes in a white Cromwell Aristo Grain clamshell case with an embedded custom Printed Circuit Board (PCB) designed to pulse an LED embedded inside the case itself. You simply pick up the book and the power symbol on the front will start gently pulsing a few times before going back to sleep."

What have you done for people who bought the book last year?

"I've created a supplement that includes all of the photos in the second edition, which I'm providing free to existing customers. In that package, I've also offered them a promotion if they're interested in buying the new Classic Plus, Special Edition, or Ultimate Edition. US customers will receive the supplement via mail, and international customers only need to pay for shipping, which is $12. I've already received some great feedback about receiving a 'physical update' to their book and customers are really happy. I'm hoping they will 'gift' their existing copy to a friend and upgrade — just like a true Apple customer."

What's new in the new book?

"There are 16 new pages — some new vintage machines, the iPhone 5S, and the Mac Pro. Also included are a bunch of amazing prototypes from Hap Plain, who is one of the most prolific collectors of this stuff in the world. He generously allowed me to visit his home and photograph some of his amazing specimens. The book itself has a new dustjacket, and the cover is now a beautiful black material, updated from the previous material that was blue cloth."

What gave you the idea to have a pulsing power logo on the Ultimate Edition?

"Adafruit created these really cool cufflinks that pulse — I saw them back around 2011, and I thought it would be super cool to embed that into the book. I tried to do something with Adafruit, but they don't do any custom work, so I started this as a background task. The sleep indicator on the MacBook Pro is just so Apple — it's subtle, elegant, and tasteful... not to mention beautifully engineered.

"After I created the Special Edition with the Apple-II-esque book case, I wanted to up the game a little and provide another cool packaging concept. I worked with a local engineering company in Atlanta called Flash Automation to design the boards to fit nicely into a clamshell case and only pulse when you picked the book up so that the battery would last a long time. The circuit is really simple, but it works so well — hackers can actually download the source and (if they have the right programming cable) reprogram the Atmel chip on the board to, say, pulse faster or more often before going to sleep. I also loved the idea of merging some kind of powered device with the book without doing something tacky, and I think this is a great outcome. The result looks so elegant, and when people pick up the case, they go nuts."

Did you ever think about Kickstarter for the book?

"I did, but with a day job, I worried about my ability to estimate a schedule and stick to it. I've seen so many people disappointed by huge delays on KickStarter, and I'm a big believer in delivering on promises to my customers — on time and with the quality they expect."

Do you have any plans for other coffee table books?

"Not yet...."

What other Apple gift do you think would be a perfect fit for Apple aficionados? Share your suggestions in the discussion thread below.

About Jordan Golson

Jordan Golson is an Apple Columnist for TechRepublic. He also writes about technology and automobiles for WIRED and MacRumors. He has worked for Apple Retail twice and has been writing about technology since 2007.

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