By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
August 16, 2011

The look of Walter Isaacson’s bio will be as spare and restrained as any Apple product

“The cover,” writes Isaacson in private e-mail, “is the Albert Watson portrait taken for Fortune in 2009. The back is a Norman Seeff portrait of him in the lotus position holding the original Macintosh, which ran in Rolling Stone in January 1984. The title font is Helvetica. It will look as you see it, with no words on the back cover.”

He’s talking, of course, about Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson, the first book about the life of Apple’s (AAPL) cofounder written with Jobs’ support and cooperation (see The man who won Steve Jobs’ trust). It was back in the news Monday when new listings on Amazon (AMZN) and Barnes & Noble (BKS) revealed that the pubdate had been moved up to Nov. 21, 2011, from March 6, 2012 . The change sparked speculation that the new schedule might somehow be related to a decline in Jobs’ health.

“It’s actually not related to any decline,” writes Isaacson. “I turned most of the book in this past June. It’s now all done and edited. The March 2012 date (or whatever date it was) was never a deeply-considered pubdate. Like the original cover design, it came about because the publisher wanted to put something in the database last spring.”

Below: The publishers‘ description of the book and the author bio as it appears on the B&N website. A description of the book that included a quote has been replaced with the one you see below. You can read the longer one here. The author’s bio leaves out the fact that Isaacson and Laurene Powell, Steve Jobs’ wife, both sit on the board of Teach for America.

The book:

Based on more than forty interviews with Jobs conducted over two years—as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues—Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.

At a time when America is seeking ways to sustain its innovative edge, and when societies around the world are trying to build digital-age economies, Jobs stands as the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination. He knew that the best way to create value in the twenty-first century was to connect creativity with technology. He built a company where leaps of the imagination were combined with remarkable feats of engineering.

Although Jobs cooperated with this book, he asked for no control over what was written nor even the right to read it before it was published. He put nothing off-limits. He encouraged the people he knew to speak honestly. And Jobs speaks candidly, sometimes brutally so, about the people he worked with and competed against. His friends, foes, and colleagues provide an unvarnished view of the passions, perfectionism, obsessions, artistry, devilry, and compulsion for control that shaped his approach to business and the innovative products that resulted.

Driven by demons, Jobs could drive those around him to fury and despair. But his personality and products were interrelated, just as Apple’s hardware and software tended to be, as if part of an integrated system. His tale is instructive and cautionary, filled with lessons about innovation, character, leadership, and values.

The author: 

Rhodes Scholar, historian, and bestselling author Walter Isaacson began his distinguished career as a journalist — first for London’s Sunday Times, then for The Times-Picayune/States-Item, published in his hometown of New Orleans. He joined Time magazine in 1978, working his way up from political correspondent to managing editor in a little less than two decades. He served for two years as chairman and CEO of the cable TV news network CNN; then, in 2003, he became president of the Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit organization “dedicated to fostering enlightened leadership and open-minded dialogue.” In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, he was appointed vice-chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, and he serves on a number of policy-making boards and councils.

In literary circles, Isaacson is best known as the writer of magisterial biographies, scholarly and meticulously researched, yet immensely entertaining. His first book, however, was a collaborative effort. Co-written with award-winning journalist Evan Thomas, and published in 1986, The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made explores the lives of six men who shaped government and public policy in the years following WWII. Examining an era too recent to be called history and too distant to qualify as current affairs, the book received mixed reviews but was universally praised for its ambitious scope and elegant style.

Isaacson’s subsequent biographies, all solo efforts (and all critically acclaimed), have chronicled the lives of such disparate figures as Henry Kissinger, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein. He explains what has drawn him to such widely divergent subjects — men, who on the surface would appear to have very little in common: “I like writing about people with interesting minds. I try to explore the various aspects of intelligence: common sense, wisdom, creativity, imagination, mental processing power, emotional understanding, and moral values. Which of these traits are the most important? How do they make someone an influential or significant or good person?”

You May Like