The Wall Street Journal
Article published on November 7th, 2011, following a phone interview for The Wall Street Journal, about Steve Jobs’ official biography written by Walter Isaacson.
With Steve Jobs Book in Hand, Fans Angle to Impress
When Devin Briggs received a package in the mail last week, the 21-year-old unboxed it carefully, photographed the contents amid the wrapping, and then uploaded a picture to Twitter and Instagram with the caption, « IT’S HERE! »
« Unboxing » is a ritual embraced by Apple Inc. product enthusiasts who like to take and then post to the Web photographs and video of themselves unfurling the newest iPad or MacBook Air from the Cupertino, Calif., technology company.
The object of Mr. Briggs’s photo shoot was not an Apple product, though. It was a hardcover copy of the biography, » Steve Jobs, » which was written by Walter Isaacson and published by Simon & Schuster. « I just wanted to get a picture of the book up right away, » says Mr. Briggs, a video editor in Huntington Beach, Calif.
The social-media presence of « Steve Jobs » is the latest outpouring of fanaticism from Apple fans since Mr. Jobs’s death on October 5, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Foursquare’s Eric Friedman discuss on Lunch Break.
The 140-digital-character set wants to show off a 656-page, 2.2-pound mass of bound paper bearing some 160,000 words. The early adopters of Steve-Jobs’-biography-reading are publicizing their trendiness by posting photographs and videos of the book—its outer cover, its inside cover and even chunks of text—across the Web on sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, a photo-sharing social network available only to iPhone users.
The social-media presence of « Steve Jobs » is the latest outpouring of fanaticism from Apple fans since Mr. Jobs’s death on October 5, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.
Mr. Isaacson’s biography hit a few weeks after Mr. Jobs’s death. The title has sold briskly. Soon after its launch, Amazon.com Inc. predicted it could become its top-selling title of the year. Nielsen reports that as of Oct. 30, « Steve Jobs » had sold 383,000 units in the U.S. Rights to the book have thus far been sold to 37 publishers around the world. Nielsen doesn’t break out sales of e-books versus hardcover. CBS Corp.’s Simon & Schuster, the North American publisher of « Steve Jobs, » declined to comment on sales figures.
Five days after the book’s official release, Eric Friedman, director of business development for the location-sharing company Foursquare, tweeted « Going to read the Steve Jobs bio » and attached a photo of himself holding the book. Mr. Friedman says that these days, he most often reads books on his iPad or android phone, via a Kindle application. His father preordered him a copy of the physical book.
« This is something that Steve Jobs had a hand in down to the atoms that make up the book and I was proud of the book and wanted to show what I was reading, » he says.
Mr. Isaacson says Mr. Jobs didn’t seek control over what he wrote, but did have input into the cover design after seeing an early proposal that he disliked.
Mr. Isaacson told CNN « Piers Morgan Tonight » that Mr. Jobs rejected a proposed cover design before approving the published cover: a spare close-up black-and-white photograph of Mr. Jobs with the title.
Jonathan Wald, executive producer of the CNN program, « Piers Morgan Tonight, » received a copy of the book a few days before it was published because Mr. Isaacson had been booked to appear on the show to promote the book. Mr. Wald photographed the book’s cover and posted the picture to Twitter and Instagram.
In response to the photo, Rachel Sklar, a consultant to technology start-ups, commented on Instagram, « Is it avail or are you special? »
« So spesh, » Mr. Wald responded.
In an interview, Mr. Wald said that he always uses social media to promote the program’s subjects. (On Friday, Mr. Wald tweeted a photo from the new memoir written by « The Office » star Mindy Kaling. He says he hopes she will appear on his program soon.) But he admits there was a special excitement in showing off his pre-release « Steve Jobs. »
« I wanted to share my good fortune, » he says.
Once Ms. Sklar was able to obtain her own copy, she uploaded photos of the book’s inside cover to Instagram. She followed with a photo of the book’s index: TV Guide, Mark Twain, Twiggy, Twitter, Uncle John’s Band.
When Kevin Systrom, co-founder and chief executive of Instagram, traveled to China last week for a conference, he brought his half-pound computer and the 600-page book. « My girlfriend saw it and said, ‘You don’t even read!’ » he says. He told her, « This is different. I want this on my desk. »
When Nicolas Spehler, 17, of Corsica, France, received his copy of the book, he took to Twitter. « iGot it! » he wrote and uploaded a photo of the cover. (Mr. Spehler says he has been developing an iPad app for tourists called « iCorsica! » but his parents have urged him lately to focus on his school work.) Of « Steve Jobs, » Mr. Spehler says, « This is the longest book I’ll ever read. »
And when the book arrived in Bombay, Aneev Rao, 26, a photographer tweeted an unboxing bubble-wrap-strewn photo.
Companies that sell electronic readers as well as entrepreneurs are working to integrate social networking into the experience of reading books. Through the Barnes & Noble Inc. e-reader, the Nook, readers can share a quote or recommend a title to friend via Facebook and Twitter. Amazon offers similar features on the Kindle.
Next month, a start-up company, Read Social, plans to begin offering e-readers the ability to join book clubs and embed notes and comments in a book’s electronic text to be read and responded to by others in the group, says company co-founder Travis Alber.
For now, Tiffany Lea Williams, an executive producer at MTV, created her own makeshift system to connect « Steve Jobs » with social-media networks. An avid reader, she felt it was important to read the book on tools created by Mr. Jobs. So, she used the iBook application to read it on her iPad.
When she was moved by particular passage—such as one that read in part — »if you don’t love something, you’re not going to go the extra mile »—she used an iBook feature to highlight the paragraph, snapped a iPad screenshot, uploaded the digital photo of her iPad screen bearing the highlighted text to Instagram, and clicked the option to have her Instagram post pushed onto her Tumblr.com blog. She set up her Tumblr so that a link to everything she posts automatically gets tweeted.
Ms. Williams says colleagues have teased her: « You are obsessed with this Steve Jobs book. »