It’s been about half a year since Apple co-founder Steve Jobs passed away and nearly as long since the book chronicling the life of one of America’s greatest entrepreneurs had been released. The book, which quickly became 2011′s top selling book on Amazon, was released on October 24th, a short 3 weeks after Steve Jobs’ passing.
Although I was ecstatic at getting the chance to read the only authorized biography of Steve Jobs and learning more about him, after reading the book I came away a little bit disappointed.
My disappointment seemed to align at times with what has been said by Apple Technology writers John Gruber (Daring Fireball), John Siracusa (from Ars Technica) and Dan Benjamin (host and founder of the 5by5 Podcasts) shortly after the book was released. In their views the author, Walter Isaacson, dropped the ball on the technology side of the book and in general did not really explaining things properly, such as using the term “spike it” — a journalism term meaning to withhold a story from publication — without explaining what it means to the reader.
John Siracusa summed it up best at the time in an episode of Hypocritical, a 5by5 podcast that he co-hosts with Dan Benjamin, where he highlights Isaacson’s lack of research regarding the computer industry and inconsistencies that were made in the course of the book. It also didn’t help that there were quite a few areas where it seemed as though Isaacson had referenced other previous books about Steve Jobs or events in Steve’s life that were not covered in too much detail (such as Steve’s time running Next Computer).
I feel that the lack of research and the inconsistencies at times hurt the book especially in light of the fact that Isaacson had the privilege of exclusive access to Steve Jobs over the course of two years. Would it have been that hard to question his subject about his experiences at his second start-up Next Computer, or his rationale in running Apple the way he has since his return in 1997? This was stuff that was interesting for me to find out, along with what events and experiences shaped him into the man that he became.
It’s sad that ever since I have read the book I have had to look to other avenues to learn more about Steve, such as old interviews he had during the 90s — mind you one of them was extremely interesting when he discussed his views on the education system in America with Computer World amongst other things — while he was working with Next Computer or unauthorized biographies. This part of his life would have been great to focus on. We could have learned what Steve felt about how he had failed with Next and how that failure changed him and how the success with Pixar in essence saved him.
Personally, having read about his personality and how he didn’t shy away from being himself I would have loved to have gotten to know more about him as a person. The way the Isaacson biography, and other books, have described makes me sort of relate to him in some ways and I always wondered — as someone who has difficulty maintaining motivation — how did Steve Jobs manage to keep himself motivated and driven by the work he was doing, was it just a case of Steve doing what he loves rather than just simply working at a job?
I guess maybe I’ll never really know what made him tick, but I do hope that Isaacson might someday release a second edition or even release the recordings of his conversations with Steve much like how Robert X. Cringely released, to select theatres, a full length video interview he had with Steve Jobs in the mid 90s. One can only hope.