This is all about why you should get David Pogue’s iPhone: The Missing Manual—and how I lucked into helping David edit his book
The iPhone became my first cellphone (and first iPod) the very first evening it was sold by Apple. It’s been my faithful electronic companion through the years since, being replaced by new iPhone versions as they came out. From the start, I began corresponding with David Pogue, personal-technology columnist for the New York Times—sharing tips, tricks and observations with him about the iPhone.
Eventually, David asked me to be the beta-reader of the first edition of iPhone: The Missing Manual—and hired me as the tech reviewer/editor of the later editions, too.
How did this happen?
Well, that’s what this article is all about.
First bite of the Apple
My wife Carol is the person who first got me interested in the iPhone, before it even came out. She had seen Steve Jobs’ iPhone presentation on the interwebs and let me know I had to see it, too. For years we had been putting off getting a cellphone because none of the so-called “smart phones” seemed smart to us; they all seemed dumb in what you had to do to get their features to work. Too hard and clumsy to use, that’s what we both thought. So, we never bought one, putting off the decision on what to get.
But after Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone on January 9, 2007 and the video of it appeared on Apple’s website, my wife offered me an Apple—just like Eve tempted Adam with an apple—and I got my first taste of the iPhone’s magical goodness watching Steve Jobs tell everybody what he had been keeping a secret for so long: his revolutionary iPhone.
Neither of us had owned anything made by Apple at that point, not even an iPod. We both used Dell computers at home, and put up with Windows because that’s all we had known. Eventually we’d switch to using Apple computers as well as the iPhone. . . but I’m getting ahead of myself. More on that later.
Drinking the Kool-Aid
Seeing the demonstration of the iPhone that Steve Jobs gave, I was hooked. I knew without even holding an iPhone in my own hands that this was the cellphone for us. It was everything we had been waiting for, and then some.
The first day the iPhone was sold, June 29, 2007, my wife and I were on line at our local AT&T Store to buy two of them. The doors opened at 6:00 pm and we eagerly entered when it was our turn, emerging the store shortly afterwards holding our precious purchases.
Say hello to iPhone
Our iPhones quickly became a part of our daily lives. I started reading everything I could find about the iPhone—Google searches led me to David Pogue’s columns in The New York Times and what he had written about the iPhone. I also found him on Twitter and saw that he was writing a book about the iPhone—called a “Missing Manual” because it would provide much more information than the little booklet Apple provided in the iPhone’s box.
David asked for tips from his readers about using the iPhone and offered to give a free copy of his upcoming iPhone book to anyone who submitted a tip that he hadn’t already written into the upcoming book. That was all I needed to know! I submitted tip after tip, only to hear back from him each time that he already had that in the book. But through our email correspondence he must have liked my writing style—or perhaps he simply took pity on me—because he offered me a free copy of the book in return for being its “beta reader”. He would email me the book’s chapters before it went to the printer in return for my looking it over and proofreading it. That was fine with me! I’d get to read the book for free and get to see it before it was even published!
As he completed each chapter, David would send me drafts of them one by one. I tried out things he wrote about on my own iPhone, letting him know when there was an alternate way of doing things in addition to how he had described it. As beta-reader I looked closely through the entire book before it was printed, watching for errors in spelling or gramatical use, missing portions, and even factual errors.
Stop the presses!
As his August 1st deadline approached, the chapters were sent to me faster and faster. I eagerly devoured each one.
On the night of July 18th and early the next morning, David and I had a very interesting email exchange about his book which I’ll share with you now. We were commenting on the “final” PDF version of the book he sent me, after it had already gone to the printer a few days prior to that.
David Pogue: We’ve actually caught a couple of small typos since this went out, but the gist is there.
Me: I found one which said to go to page xxx — and the real page number wasn’t filled in. Is that something like you mean?
Later that night, I got an email reply:
David Pogue: Oh, dear. No, we didn’t find that one. We’ll fix it asap! ( I did a global search for xx’s—wonder why it didn’t come up!?)
Then, early the next morning, he wrote me again:
David Pogue: Oh, dear. You found a serious error! Chapter 8 was apparently turned in the wrong version! Heads are rolling, presses are stopping ( I sure hope)…
I quickly replied,
Me: Wow! A real-life ‘Stop the presses!’ I can see Perry White snarling now! ‘Lois, Jimmy! Where’s Clark?!? He’d know what to do.’
‘I dunno, Chief. He was here just a minute ago…’
‘Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird… It’s a plane! …It’s POGUEMAN!!’
‘Never mind that… And stop calling me ‘Chief!!’
Well, they did in fact stop the presses, swapped in the corrected chapter, and only had to delay the book’s release by one day. But at least it was fixed!! The book got printed with the correct version of the chapter and none of the readers of it knew what had almost happened.
It turns out David wasn’t expecting much to come from this beta-reading experiment, but I surprised him by giving it my all—examining each page to find words spelled incorrectly, incomplete sentences—and I even added some tips which he wound up including in the book! In fact, he used almost all of my suggestions. He appreciated my input, so much so that he later sent my brother and me one free copy (each) of the book—and he also provided two additional copies for me to give away on my Disney Echo website in a contest for the Echo’s members. In addition, David included a special thanks to me in the introduction of the book as well as separately writing to me that he felt very lucky that I volunteered to beta-read it and felt I did a “phenomenal job” and made the book “SO much better!” I was just doing what I could to help, so I’m glad he appreciated it so much and that he even included a link to my website in the book, as well. Take a look at the Acknowledgments page:
The iPhone had a large part in putting together that book, beyond the book being about the iPhone. If I hadn’t seen some of David’s emails pushed to me wherever I was (through my Yahoo email account), we wouldn’t have caught things like that wrong chapter in time.
From beta-reader to tech editor
When new versions of the iPhone came from Apple, David Pogue wrote a new version of iPhone: The Missing Manual. For the 2009 edition I was asked again to help out, but not as a beta-reader. No, I was given a promotion to Tech Editor and paid for my work—in cash as well as another free book! I was lucky enough to help him again in the same way for the 2010 edition of the book. Then, even better: for the 2010 edition of iPhone: The Missing Manual I was not only tech editor but David had me rewrite the chapter on iPhone Accessories, updating it with many new products that can be used to enhance the iPhone. That was quite an honor for me.
I’d like to thank MainStreetJake, lar3ry and “Those Darn Cats” podcast’s Lisa sambycat for helping me provide David with last-minute demonstration screenshots of the Find My Friends app. I also want to thank my friends Melanie Ross and Sandi Cummings for recommending two iPhone cases which I included in the Accessories chapter of the book.
iPhone changed our lives
Our iPhones impressed us so much they were the “gateway drugs” for my wife and me to switch away from PCs and getting Macs—his and hers matching MacBook Pros, to be precise. And what they say is true: “Once you go Mac, you never go back!” We’re very pleased with our iPhones and wouldn’t switch to another cellphone for anything in the world.
As for me, I’m happy to assist David Pogue in any way I can with his iPhone books in the future. Maybe one day I’ll even meet him in person!
If you enjoyed this article, please use this link to Amazon.com to buy the book and you’ll be helping me out: iPhone: The Missing Manual
UPDATE: Here’s a picture showing three of my friends (@sambycat / @ThoseDarnCats, @mainstreetjake, and @lar3ry) in the part of the book about Find My Friends: