Apple’s publication of a $199/$299 design book raised quite a few eyebrows, some questioning the price, others considering it self-indulgent (especially given all the promo activity), yet others wondering whether this might be Jony Ive’s swansong.

We got a hands-on look at the book in a recent video, and I had my own look in the Regent Street Apple Store. My own view is that it’s beautifully produced, but much as I like it, I’m not going to lay out that kind of cash on a coffee-table book. I’m just not in this market.

However, if you love the idea of the book but not the price, there is an incredibly nice $67.50 alternative …

Iconic: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation was first published in 2013. Created by Apple fan Jonathan Zufi, it tells the photographic story of the company’s products from the Apple I in 1976 through to the iPad mini in 2012.

Although an entirely unofficial exercise, the book boasts an enthusiastic foreword by Steve Wozniak.

It also features contributions from Jim Dalrymple and Daniel Kottke (Apple employee #12).

The book is a 340-page hardback measuring 12×10 inches, roughly the same size as Apple’s $199 edition. The top photo shows the Classic Plus edition, which includes a black slip-case. The Classic edition is just the book itself, and there are two expensive special editions also. The Classic Edition costs around a third of the price of the smaller Apple book, at $67.50.

The primary focus of the book is much the same as the later official version: full-page photos (and some double-page spreads) showing the beauty of the design.

But one difference is that while Apple’s own book has almost no text, Iconic has lots of quotes from Steve Jobs, Jony Ive and others which help to provide context as you journey through the different eras.

The book also starts right at the beginning of Apple’s history, in contrast to the official book which only begins with the arrival of Jony Ive and the first-gen iMac. For that reason, I’d say this is actually a better look at the evolution of Apple’s design.

The quality of the photography is first-rate, and on a par with Apple’s book.

Iconic may not be able to boast ‘specially milled, custom-dyed paper with gilded matte silver edges, using eight color separations and low-ghost ink,’ but the production quality is excellent. Thick pages with a smooth pearl finish. It’s weighty, and would grace any coffee table.

Price & conclusions

I think the pricing of Apple’s official design book puts it well out of reach of the typical Apple fan. It’s simply too much money to spend on a book when you consider what else you could buy for the same price (2-3 Apple Pencils!). The company is really pitching it to designers, plus a few well-heeled Apple fans for whom the outlay is a relatively trivial one.

At $67.50, Iconic is perhaps not quite the poor man’s Apple design book – it’s still a non-trivial sum – but it does, I think, bring it into a price-range that the more typical Apple enthusiast might be willing to pay. [Or perhaps drop hints about it making a lovely gift …]