Author: Kevin Michaluk, Gary Mazo, and Martin Trautschold
Aimed at: Smartphone addicts and all around them
Pros: Engaging read and positive message
Cons: A bit repetitive
Reviewed by: Lucy Black
Subtitled True Tales of BlackBerry Use and Abuse this is a must read for any BlackBerry addict or victim.
The premise of this book is that the BlackBerry is an addictive device - and it has a wealth of statistics and true life stories to prove the point. Depending on your point of viewed you will be amused, appalled, defensive or outraged.
Crackberry, a term that traces back to 2000 according to the preface, is slang for those who are obsessive about their BlackBerries - but in the context of this book it applies equally to iPhones, Androids and other smartphones.
The book was compiled by three authors and their stories form the preface to the book. Garry, an ordained Rabbi, here confesses to having been guilty of failing to switch off his device and having the Star Wars theme ring out during a burial he was officiating.
Kevin was guilty of more minor social misdemeanours - stopping telling a story to co-workers at lunch in order to attend to his BlackBerry's red flashing light but when he discovered that as a new owner his girlfriend preferred to play with her BlackBerry rather than with him he recognised that his own habits were not to be tolerated.
Martin, a Blackberry user since 2001, initially found it a real boon for business but due to family pressure took to checking it in the bathroom. His story of fishing his "precious" out of the toilet is not for those of a squeamish disposition but it seems it is not uncommon. In Chapter 1, "I can't be without it" the fact that about 100 of the 500 damaged BlackBerry smartphones taken to a repair shop in Houston each week have been dropped in the toilet together with the statistic from in a poll at www.crackberry.com 91% of people admitted to checking email in the bathroom.
Other statistics, this time from a 2008 AOL survey not confined to BlackBerry are included in this chapter: 12% admit to checking email in church, 37% while they are driving and 59% while in bed. The most shocking tales in this chapter, involve driving incidents.
Chapters 1 through 12 of the book present a 12-step plan (akin to those used by Alcoholics Anonymous and outlined in a book dating from 1939) designed to help addicts wean themselves from excessive and abusive behaviour and adopt responsible BlackBerry using habits.
Chapter 1 covers the initial step 1 admitting the problem. Many of the stories of addicts are presented here and throughout the rest of the book are from users of the BlackBerry users' site Crackberry.com. Some are from self-confessed addicts, others are defensive or try to deny the problem. Some stories are amusing, others embarrassing, poignant and verging on tragic.
In Chapter 4 the challenge is to take a moral inventory of BlackBerry abuses - times when Blackberry use caused hurt or harm and it includes an alphabetical list of BlackBerry sins and concludes with an empty list for you to fill in with the abuses you are guilty.
If you are still not convinced of your status Chapter 5 has a 27-question BlackBerry Addiction Quiz. Your score reveals your degree of addition from mild through painful to obsession.
Chapter 6 is where you own up. You also discover you are not alone. For example the Crackberry website has 2.5 million registered users and a study of 6500 travelling executives conducted in 2008 by Sheraton Hotels 35% of respondents said they would choose their smartphone over their spouse
The following chapters challenge you to take positive action and rather than preach it includes exercises - making better choices, listing your BlackBerry bystanders - i.e. the innocent victims of your abuse and then creating a checklist for apologising to them. By the time you reach Chapter 10, BlackBerry Etiquette you should be well on the road to more moderate behavior. If you are still in denial you are advised to start again at step 1. The final two stages are to do with reconnecting with the people around you and behaving responsibly and helping fellow addicts do the same.
The final chapter has final thoughts from each of the three authors and is followed by a useful appendix with definitions and an index which is handy for location the many stories and topics covered.
So who should read this book?
If you are a BlackBerry user you are going to recognise that at least some of the bad habits described in this book apply to you.
If you fit the profile of the Crackberry addict you may start out either in denial or defending your position - but hopefully the stories of extreme abuse will make you reconsider your ways.
If you are a victim then perhaps this book will serve as a subtle (or perhaps not so subtle) hint to make someone you know reform their behavior.