Friday, October 28, 2011

Why Haven't YOU Written A Biography of Steve Jobs? (Everyone Else Has)

The death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was sad news and certainly cast a shadow over the tech world in general. Jobs was a computer visionary and his work definitely changed the world we live in today. Whether or not his work warrants the deluge of biographies we are seeing is another matter.

It seems suddenly everyone wants to tell the story of Jobs' life; how he came to be who he was and how he did what he did. I am sure his biography makes for good read, but how many times can we hear the same story before we grow tired, distant or even resentful at hearing it again.

I think the proliferation of Jobs biographies has more to do with opportunistic writers than with his persona. It is easy enough to throw together a thousand pages on a topic you know has a good chance of selling, especially if you happened to have once met your subject at a cocktail party, convention, or your kids' elementary school bake sale.

My point isn't so much about whether or not Jobs' is worthy of a library full of biographies (or about the quality of Walter Isaacson's book) as it is about why writers can't be a little less like used car salesman and a little more like artists.

Steve Jobs told Walter Isaacson he wanted him to write his biography because he's good at getting people to talk. Jobs, it turns out, didn't need much prodding, secretive as he was about both his private life and the company he founded.

"I just listened," said Isaacson, whose book, "Steve Jobs" (Simon & Schuster) went on sale earlier this week in the US. Jobs, who died October 5 at 56 after a long struggle with pancreatic cancer, was a man full of deep contradictions, a product of 1960s counterculture who went on to found what is now the world's most valuable technology company, Apple Inc.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Isaacson said Jobs was a compelling storyteller with "fascinating stories." Sometimes, the author would hear him tell those tales two or three times, often with slight variations. But through more than 40 conversations with Jobs, as well as interviews with his family, close friends, co-workers and rivals, Isaacson painted a rich portrait of a complex, sometimes conflicting figure.

Isaacson began work on the book in 2009 after Jobs' wife, Laurene Powell, told him that if he was "ever going to do a book on Steve, you'd better do it now." It was just after Jobs had taken his second medical leave as CEO of Apple, in January of that year. His third leave, which began in January 2011, would be his final one.

Click here to read more about Walter Isaacson's book.

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