Walter Isaacson Considering Expanding Steve Jobs Biography

Richard Nieva for Fortune:

The author discussed potential plans for expanding the already 630-page book in the future. One possibility is doing an extensively annotated version. Another is writing an addendum that addresses the period surrounding Jobs' death. Fleshing out the details seems like a logical next step, since Isaacson believes the Apple (AAPL) CEO's story will be told for decades or a century to come. "This is the first or second draft," he said, referring to his book's role in documenting Jobs' life. "It's not the final draft."

This is ridiculous.

In the weeks since the biography's release, there has been widespread criticism of the way Isaacson dealt with the modern Apple, and with the company's future. Rather than asking questions concerning the genesis of product concepts and ideas, Isaacson evidently found deeper interest in solely exploring the human story and repeatedly highlighting Steve Jobs' abandonment issues. Ultimately, Isaacson presented a semi-satisfying, yet irrefutably lacking image of Steve Jobs.

As such, the question has been asked as to whether this was a squandered opportunity. Whether Isaacson was even interested in Jobs in the first place. Most importantly, whether the window of opportunity for answers has now passed. Isaacson has responded to several questions, and has repeatedly hinted at knowing more, but giving little more detail than that. 

And yet, suddenly the biography is now unfinished? Oh, of course.

Having been Amazon's best selling book for 2011, this strikes me as a shameless attention/cash grabbing endeavor. People are evidently interested in the late Apple CEO's life and there would inevitably be interest in an expansion of the hot topic of the future of the company.

The book's release felt rushed following Steve's passing, and now it is casually announced that information was withheld or unexplored?

Such treatment is callous.

Isaacson was tasked with writing about Steve's life, and the book's release was repeatedly moved in accordance with each nugget of health-related news that leaked out. The publisher and Isaacson were aware of the situation, and it was announced he was covering Steve's final year. But now it's just a draft? Suddenly he didn't cover everything he would have liked to?

The publishing of the book comes across as a shameless capitalization on Steve Jobs' death. As far as Isaacson's writing, it can either be deemed rushed and inadvertently unfinished, or purposefully unfinished for the sake of revisiting for more money later.

Regardless of the reason, this does not sit right with me whatsoever.

Gruber on Isaacson, Gladwell, and Steve Jobs

John Gruber:

Jobs understood technology but was not an engineer. He had profoundly exquisite taste but was not a designer. What it was that Jobs actually did is much of the mystery of his life and his work, and Isaacson, frustratingly, had seemingly little interest in that, or any recognition that there even was any sort of mystery as to just what Jobs’s gifts really were. Gladwell, alas, takes Isaacson’s portrait of Jobs at face value.

For context, here's Gladwell's article for The New Yorker.

I'm inclined to agree with Gruber. I haven't finished the biography yet, but my impression echoes much of Gruber's argument -- Isaacson didn't ask some of the most fundamentally important, and valuable questions in his book. Although Isaacson has had a chance to offer some clarification, the chance is now lost for those of us outside Apple to grasp what, exactly, constituted the processes behind some of the biggest products of the past twenty years.

The problem is that many will now take Isaacson's writing as the final doctrine on Jobs' life, as demonstrated by Gladwell's article. People will be inclined to take a biography -- the only to ever have such access to Jobs -- as immutable truth.

While there is, of course, a great deal of truth to Isaacson's writing, that is not to say that it encompasses all that was Steve Jobs, nor does it articulate all there is to discuss.

Gruber's closing statement acknowledges this with a palpable sense of regret, summing up what may prove to be a painfully missed opportunity for those of us external to Apple to learn more about the man who guided it so effectively:

Steve Jobs really did re-imagine the world. The thing is, he actually made it happen, too.

One on One with Walter Isaacson

Walter Isaacson on the topic of Apple's future products:

He had three things that he wanted to reinvent: the television, textbooks and photography. He really wanted to take these on. I didn’t go into details about these products in the book because it was implicitly Apple’s creations and it’s not fair to the company to reveal these details. But, he did talk about the television. He told me he’d “licked it” and once said, “There’s no reason you should have all these complicated remote controls.”

An interesting piece from Nick Bilton.

Given the recent criticism of Isaacson's approach to the biography, particularly with regard to his treatment of Apple's future, its business methods, and so on, it's fascinating to see him attempting to justify and defend his writing methodology.