With a few days of decompression under my belt, I thought a Backstage update was (over)due, so here’s the first part of it.
As you can probably guess from the page count (194) if nothing else, this year’s edition of The Free iPod Book was a massive undertaking – certain parts were two or three months in the making, and even though the book seemed to jump a mere 50 pages in total size from its predecessor, most of the old pages had to be rewritten and/or photographically updated. Though I’ve really appreciated all of the nice comments from readers on all the new content, it shouldn’t be any surprise that much of the discussion of the Book has focused on its graphics – Dennis as always did a superb job with the cover and interior spreads, and then, sandwiched inbetween 186 other pages of content, there were those photo and art contests. If you haven’t seen it all yet, download it here.
There’s been a lot of discussion over those contests, and though we don’t get into the details inside the book, I can say that the biggest challenge in all of the photo and art submissions lately has been finding truly eye-catching entries – ones that meet/exceed simple photo rules (no blur, good composition, color/contrast balance, don’t look totally posed, etc.) and don’t need to resort to big text explanations of what they’re supposed to be. I want to reemphasize that last point: small text does not reproduce well in these books, and (generally!) if you need to put it in text, it’s not going to win an art contest. The other major issues these days are finding entries that don’t look just like older contest entries, ones that don’t just put an iPod in the middle of an otherwise non-iPod scene, and ones that haven’t violated the Photoshop rules. I’m not going to tell you that our winners for this issue’s photo contest were perfect. They certainly weren’t. But they caught our attention, met the photo basics, and also fit with our stated desires for At Home, On The Go, and In Car.
As for judging, Dennis and I have had lots of arguments during the winner selection processes for each of our past publications’ contests – the debates often result in wives and girlfriends being called in for second opinions, sometimes other iLounge editors, and almost always substantial reshuffles of our initial slate of winners. This issue’s winners were the least contentious in our contests’ history. Make of that what you will. But if we do another of these photo contests – and that’s an “if” in my mind – we are probably going to switch to a different system for judging, and re-open the door to all types of entries, regardless of their similarity to past winners.
On a wholly separate note, I was relieved to see MacNN’s report this morning that Apple has cancelled its plan to provide tech support from India – one that I said here back in February was a bad idea, assuming Apple was going to shutter U.S.-based support for U.S. customers in the process. The reasons aren’t known right now, but in my view, other than cost, there would be little benefit – and perhaps disasterous consequences – to changing Apple’s tech support at a time when it’s generally regarded to be industry-leading in quality. Let the next massive comments thread begin.