Things Macintosh

Where Are All the Macintosh Books?

Rodney O. Lain - 2000.05.01

Despite the many improvements in the Mac system software over the years, however, one feature has grown consistently worse since the original 1984 Macintosh: Apple's documentation. With Mac OS 9, in fact, you don't get a single page of printed instructions. To learn about the 2,000 pieces of software that make up this operating, you're expected to use one of Apple's three mutually incompatible online help systems (Balloon Help, Apple Guide, and the Web-like Mac Help).
  - David Pogue, introduction to Mac OS 09. The Missing Manual

ROSEVILLE, MN (a north suburb of St. Paul) - If you gave a cursory glance to the store shelves at the Barnes & Noble we visited this weekend, you'd think that there were more Linux users than Mac users.

At least that's the impression that I got.

Always willing to help The Cause, I often buy a Mac book or three at least once a month. This was the plan Saturday night. Since I'm a regular at the local book stores, I know where to look. This time, I wondered how the newbie Mac owner would view "my" store. For this reason, I did more than go straight to the Mac section; instead, I compared the respective sections for Windows, Macintosh, Linux, and Other. Try this at your local book store.

I went to the PC section. It's a given that you'll find more how-to books on Windows - you need them, unless you're a mensa, a computer science major, or both.

I went to the Linux section. These guys have not only a good selection to choose from, but they also have their own section labeled "Linux." Why do I make such a big deal about this? Well, let's mosey on over to the Mac section, padnuh....

Oh, I forgot to tell you: there isn't a "Macintosh" section, per se.

Normally, I'd walk straight to the Mac section from the entrance, but since I was already in the store, I was a little disoriented, so I walked the shelves, looking for the Mac books.

It was in a section labeled "Operating Systems." The Mac section is the bottom two rows.

Only two shelves? What the - oh, there are some Mac books on the top row of the next shelf. But it's only one-half of a row. Great. The best-selling desktop and laptop on the market (iMac and iBook), and there's only 2-1/2 rows dedicated to them out of scores of rows of computer books.

But then, I'm biased.

But then again, I have every right to be upset. David Pogue alone has written 2-1/2 rows of Mac books! The eminent Robin Williams has written a good row or two herself. Add Bob Levitus, John Rizzo, Gene Steinberg, and other great authors too numerous to list here, and one can't help but wonder if there conspiracy against the Macintosh platform is in full swing, undeterred by Apple's grand resurgence.

Sure, we can boast and joke that Windows users need more manuals (every Windows book, some think, should end with "for Dummies" - or is that redundant?). But we, too, need reference books. For example, did you know that Mac OS 9 can run Mac OS X programs, thanks to the Carbonlib extension (I found that out by reading a Mac book that I bought).

To be fair, there are more Mac books out there than I am admitting - most Mac books are mixed in with their Windows counterparts. Or, as is the case with many books on popular titles like Photoshop, Quark XPress, etc., many books cover Mac and Windows between the two covers. But the impression to the casual user is that Linux and Windows are the only computer platforms out there, as evidenced by the store signage.

There's a point to this ranting ramble - I have a favor to ask the Mac advocates among us: maybe you guys should do what I do whenever I purchase a Macintosh-related book:

  1. Happen to be standing next to someone who is also perusing the Mac section? Mention your shared affinity. I was thumbing through the UK Macworld magazine (much better than the US version, IMO), when I noticed another Mac user. When I saw him grab a Mac mag to look at, I commented, "ah, a man with taste." He looked toward me, and I pointed towards my (Malcolm) OS X T-shirt.
  2. When you purchase a Mac magazine, tell the cashier that you appreciate their carrying (fill-in-the-blank with your favorite Mac publication).

There is more that could be done. Try it yourself. Don't be fanatical about it, though. The time for fanaticism is past us.

Well, 'nuff said about this.

That night, I ended up buying a copy of David Pogue's Mac OS 09. The Missing Manual (The Book That Should Have Been in the Box) and David L. Hart's The Cross-Platform Mac Handbook: Keeping Your Mac in a Digital World. Like I said, I'm helping The Cause. I can't buy a new Mac on a whim, but I can do the next best thing.

My wife went to pay for the books. Upon returning, she said that the cashier told her that he is going to buy a Mac. He once owned a Macintosh LC, my wife said, but replaced it with a PC that has caused problems to no end. His next computer will be an iMac.

"I'm not a Mac advocate like you, so I didn't say anything," she said. "I just looked at him."

"Ah, grasshopper," I said, grabbing her shoulder, clucking my tongue sympathetically. "My teachings are not yet sunk in." I affected my "Mr. Miyagi" voice: "Wax on. Wax off."

So much to teach. So little time in which to teach it. Oh, well....

As for you Macintosh-book authors out there, keep cranking them out - maybe even cranking up the volume a tad. After all, if you write it, they will come.

So, write on, brothers and sisters. We'll be watching. And reading.

Rodney O. Lain (1968-2002) called himself a fashion victim: He liked wearing socks with his sandals. When he wasn't dispensing fashion advice, Rodney wrote for Low End Mac, The Mac Observer, Applelinks, and many other websites. Rodney lived in Minnesota. His own website was, and we have collected as much of his writing that has since disappeared from the Web as possible in The Rodney O. Lain Archive.

The most widely read Things Macintosh columns:

  1. Apple is a company, 10/4/1999
  2. The main difference between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, 1/17/2000
  3. The $600 iMac, 12/24/1999
  4. Apple will rule the computer world, 11/17/1999
  5. I'm not paying $20 for my OS X upgrade, 2001.07.25.
  6. A Mac is like Prozac, 10/13/1999
  7. I'm a drop the funk bomb on ya: Milking the Macintosh for all it's worth, 2001.03.20.
  8. More links and links to memorial articles in the Things Macintosh index.

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