By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
September 28, 2011

Fortune‘s Kindle book is a treasure trove of vintage Steve Jobs vignettes

“Contempt” is probably the word that best describes Steve Jobs’ attitude toward the press. But he courts the publications he cares about, and over the years one of the magazines he courted most assiduously — at least until a certain 2008 cover story — was Fortune.

While at Apple (AAPL), NeXT, Pixar and Apple again, he gave Fortune‘s writers and editors extraordinary access. At one point in the summer of 1995 he invited Brent Schlender, Fortune‘s Silicon Valley correspondent, to his Palo Alto home so that Schlender’s two daughters, 9 and 10, could watch a half-finished version of Toy Story with Jobs’ 3-year-old son.

As a result, the back issues of the magazine are filled with rare glimpses of a Steve Jobs most of us never got to see. To celebrate the final chapter in Jobs’ remarkable career, managing editor Andy Serwer has gathered the major Fortune articles about Jobs, some of them long forgotten, and released them as a $10.99 Kindle book: All About Steve: The Story of Steve Jobs and Apple From the Pages of FORTUNE.

The book is a treasure trove of vintage Steve Jobs vignettes from some of America’s best business writers. Some of our favorite bits:

  • Bro Uttal’s blow-by-blow account of the failed boardroom coup that left Jobs — stripped of all operating authority — tearfully declaring to his closest advisors on May 24, 1985 at 1:07 p.m. (someone noted the time) that he was resigning from Apple. (He stuck around for four more months.)
  • A 1991 joint Steve Jobs-Bill Gates interview in which Jobs describes Microsoft as “a very small orifice” and Gates, responding to a seemingly innocuous remark about Go Corp., says “That’s one of the nastiest comments I’ve ever heard.”
  • Schlender’s March 1997 reporting inside the chaos that was Apple before Jobs — at his Machiavellian best — managed to wrest control from CEO Gil Amelio. “I’m giving Gil the best advice I know,” Jobs says, “and I’ll keep doing it until he stops listening or tells me to go away.”
  • “You know, I’ve got a plan that could rescue Apple,” Jobs tells Schlender at the end of a 1995 piece about Pixar. “But nobody there will listen to me…”

There’s plenty more, including Peter Elkind’s 2008 investigative report into Jobs’ health and backdated options problems that Jobs, fighting tears, later characterized as “kicking me while I was down.” Since then, Fortune has had to cover Apple without direct access to its co-founder — something that makes the hard-fought scoops in Adam Lashinsky’s 2011 “Inside Apple” (soon to be expanded into book in its own right) even more valuable.

There are missteps. Ann Morrison was clearly out of her depths trying to sort out the relationship between the Mac, Lisa, Apple III and Apple II in her 1984 “Apple Bites Back.” And Stanley Bing, who gets the last words in “Thanks, Steve,” seems to think that iPhone apps already number in the millions. But his parting words are poignant:

“It’s been your world, Steve. And we’ve been lucky enough to run along behind you, picking up goodies as you dropped them in our path. It’s a little scary to think that one day you’ll go off to your famous mountaintop and not return with the next big thing. But at least we can all say lived in a time when there was a person with such an imagination, and offer thanks in whatever digital or analog format we choose wherever on earth we may be. We can do that now.”

All About Steve can be downloaded here and read on any Kindle device or Kindle application. For serious students of Steve Jobs’ career, it’s a must-read.

DISCLOSURE: I worked briefly as a Fortune editor a few years ago, and publishes this blog.

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