So preorders for a new book about Steve Jobs went live yesterday, and there's quite a bit of buzz in the tech press, particularly the Mac parts of the web. Becoming Steve Jobs was first announced by John Gruber, and he says it's "going to be an essential reference for decades to come."
Well, hell. I pre-ordered.
But that got me thinking: you know what I want, more than anything? I want Walter Isaacson's tapes. Isaacson's Steve Jobs was supposed to be this book. It was supposed to be the definitive look at the life and times of the one of the most influential men in history. Isaacson sat with Jobs, asked him the questions, and heard the stories from the man himself.
And his book totally, completely sucked.
I'm not the only one who thinks so: when Jony Ive was asked about the Isaacson book for that mammoth New Yorker profile, he made it clear that he really dislikes it. "My regard couldn't be any lower," he said.
"My regard couldn't be any lower."
And I think most people who've read it feel the same way. Not only is Isaacson's book riddled with ridiculous tech errors (at one point Bill Gates is flatly quoted saying Apple didn't use any of NeXTSTEP in OS X, which is crazy levels of wrong), but it's also missing Jobs' actual voice. It's galling — Isaacson had all that time and all that access to Jobs, yet he produced so little actual insight into the creation of the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. He totally bought into Jobs' narrative frame — integrated systems are better than fragmented ones — but didn't push back against it and, worse, offered none of Jobs' insight. I could go on, but Gruber's already done it. Jobs picked the wrong guy.
So why can't we have the tapes? Aren't they a matter of intense historical interest? Shouldn't students of design and business and engineering and management all over the world be listening to The Jobs Tapes? Wouldn't Walter Isaacson make millions selling them off on iTunes for $100 bucks a pop? I would pay that. Lots of people would pay that, maybe even more than that. I'm sure the tapes were made in agreement with Jobs or his estate and there's something in the way of wide release, but all of that seems small compared to the historical importance of hearing these stories first hand.
New books that extensively quote from the people who knew Steve Jobs are great. This new book looks great. But I think it's fair to start asking for Walter Isaacson to turn over the last real legacy of Steve Jobs.