Today the biography Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson hits shelves around the world. After a weekend of leaked information, fans are still lining up to buy the book. One thing that was a surprise to us was the ultra-white, cheap-feeling paper stock and unremarkable interior design. Perhaps this is what happens when a book is rushed to publication, but it seems especially out of place in a biography of the world’s best known and most meticulous product designer.
It’s also a marked contrast to the beautifully designed jacket and endpapers, which show Jobs kicked back in an office chair, in front of a wooden desk cluttered with paper, staring at a Mac wallpapered with a photo of his family.
But on to the good stuff: while the biography has already been much discussed, we did find a few tidbits with special appeal to the readers out there.
Jobs and Jennifer Egan
OK, here’s some real, if decades-old, gossip: Jobs dated novelist Jennifer Egan while she was a U Penn undergrad, and made frequent trips from California to visit her. Their relationship was at its height in early 1984, when the first Macintosh went on sale. Jobs showed up at her mother’s apartment in San Francisco one January evening while Egan was on break from school with a “freshly boxed Macintosh and proceeded to Egan’s bedroom to set it up.” So in addition to winning a Pulitzer Prize, Jennifer Egan has also had a Mac personally delivered by Steve Jobs.
Apparently the two broke up because Egan made it clear to Jobs that she was too young to get married. Isaacson doesn’t say whether the two stayed in touch, but I would have loved a report on what Jobs thought of Visit From the Goon Squad.
Jobs and Mona Simpson
We mentioned a couple of months ago that we were looking forward to reading more about Steve Jobs’ relationship with his sister, Mona Simpson, and Isaacson’s account does include some intriguing details.
Their mother Joanne Simpson broke the news to Mona, saying in a characteristically quirky manner that Mona had “a brother, and he’s wonderful, and he’s famous, and I’m going to bring him to New York so you can meet him.” Mona and her co-workers at The Paris Review spent an afternoon speculating on who the brother could be (actors like John Travolta were popular suggestions). From their first meeting at the St. Regis Hotel in New York, the two hit it off. Of course, not being typical siblings, their points of contention weren’t typical. Mona used Jobs’ life as inspiration for her novel A Regular Guy—something he dealt with by not reading the book (“I don’t want to be pissed off at my sister”), and Jobs frequently took issue with her fashion choices—to the extent that he once purchased her a box of Issey Miyake outfits “exactly my size, in flattering colors,” Simpson told Isaacson, including three identical pantsuits that Jobs particularly liked. Simpson remained close to Jobs until his death and was among the few who were admitted to see him during his final days.
On iBooks and digital publishing
Unfortunately there’s not too much on this topic—which admittedly is of little interest to the general reader. Jobs tells Isaacson that he offered the agency model to publishers when he had not offered it to musicians because of the existing competition. “We were not the first people in the books business. Given the situation that existed, what was best for us was to do this akido move and end up with the agency model.” He thought that devices like the iPad were the future of textbook publishing, holding meetings with publishers like Pearson Education and discussing possible partnerships. He thought textbooks should be free and come with the iPad, to avoid the “corrupt” process of state certification of textbooks.
Will you read the Jobs biography?