May 01, 2005

Sour Apple: The New Evil Empire Strikes Again, Retaliating Against Publisher of Unauthorized Steve Jobs Bio

iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of BusinessLast week, the evilest empire since Microsoft extended an open hand to open source, Cupertino's own Apple Computer, thought differently about the new unauthorized biography of iCEO Steve Jobs, That is, at least, a little differently from publisher John Wiley & Sons, and asked the publisher to hold off release of the book, which Wiley respectfully declined.

Apple's response was to take their ball and go home (more or less) kicking ALL books from the publisher off the shelves of a hundred Apple retail stores in retaliation for the apparent blasphemy... punishing instead the horde of authors endlessly toiling away writing ever more "(fill in the blank) for Dummies" books.

The book, "iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business" actually couldn't have PRAYED for better publicity than this - I'd certainly never have heard of it - neither would YOU (if you're reading my blog posting anyhow). If you want to read an excerpt, visit the Wiley Web site. Here's the description:

    Lightning never strikes twice, but Steve Jobs has, transforming modern culture first with the Macintosh and more recently with the iPod. He has dazzled and delighted audiences with his Pixar movies. And he has bedeviled, destroyed, and demoralized hundreds of people along the way. Steve Jobs is the most interesting character of the digital age.

    What a long, strange journey it has been. With the mainstream success of the iPod, Pixar's string of hits and subsequent divorce from Disney, and Steve's triumphant return to Apple, his story is better than any fiction. Ten years after the leading maverick of the computer age and the king of digital cool, crashed from the height of Apple's meteoric rise, Steve Jobs rose from ashes in a Machiavellian coup that only he could have orchestrated-and has now become more famous than ever.

    In this encore to his classic 1987 unauthorized biography of Steve Jobs - a major bestseller - Jeffrey Young examines Jobs' remarkable resurgence, one of the most amazing business comeback stories in recent years. Drawing on a wide range of sources in Silicon Valley and Hollywood, he details how Jobs put Apple back on track, first with the iMac and then with the iPod, and traces Jobs' role in the remarkable rise of the Pixar animation studio, including his rancorous feud with Disney's Michael Eisner.

Otherwise, AP breaks down the book-yanking story for us:

    Apple Computer Inc. has retaliated against the publisher of an upcoming unauthorized biography about chief executive Steve Jobs by removing dozens of other technology books sold by the publisher from Apple stores around the world.

    Apple removed the books last week from all 104 of its stores after failing in a month-long attempt to persuade John Wiley & Sons not to release ``iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business,'' which is to go on sale within the next six weeks, the publisher said.

    The book-spurning is only the latest attempt by Apple executives to crack down on writers who publish or distribute unauthorized or secret information about the computer maker. It's a strategy that experts in brand management say is likely to backfire, only adding to the notoriety of Apple's critics and encouraging sales in countless other bookstores.

    ``Pulling books off the shelf is a little draconian,'' said Rob Frankel, a brand consultant. ``It reeks of repression.''

    ``This is not the first time anybody has said anything good or bad about Steve Jobs,'' Frankel added. ``He has a much better public brand image than one book could ever dispel.''

    The book's author, Jeffrey Young, says Jobs has nothing to fear from ``iCon.'' It's a chronicle of Jobs' rise as an innovator and entrepreneur and includes details about his personal life such as his divorce and fight with cancer, he said.

    ``I thought the book was pretty positive and laudatory,'' Young said. ``It covers his personal life and there is something about his illness. I wouldn't call any of it outrageous. I'm totally bewildered.''

    Young said Wiley & Sons sent a manuscript to Apple two weeks ago and the company responded by demanding that the publisher halt the release. Wiley & Sons decided instead to stand behind its author.

    Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said company executives were declining to comment.

    Lori Sayde, a spokeswoman for the publisher, says the company will publish the biography in its entirety.

    ``We're hoping that they will re-evaluate their position because we have worked very hard to establish a good relationship with Apple,'' Sayde said. ``We're empathetic to all our tech authors who will lose out in this but we support our publisher's decision to publish this book.''

    Sayde did not know how much money Wiley & Sons could lose as a result of Apple's refusal to sell the publisher's books.

    Cupertino-based Apple is known for aggressively protecting its intellectual property, as well as its image.

    In December, Apple sued 25 unnamed individuals - presumed to be Apple employees - who allegedly leaked confidential product information in violation of nondisclosure agreements and California's Uniform Trade Secrets Act.

    Apple then subpoenaed the Internet providers of three online reporters who wrote about the secret products, seeking to identify their sources. The reporters, backed by major media companies including The Associated Press, said Apple's efforts could erode the media's ability to report in the public's interest.

    In January, Apple sued a 19-year-old publisher of another Web site that revealed trade secrets about the $499 Mac mini computer.

    Defendants in that case include Harvard University student Nicholas Ciarelli, a Mac enthusiast who publishes the Web site ThinkSecret, and unnamed sources who tipped him off two weeks before Apple officially introduced the mini on Jan. 11.

In fact, Apple's clumsy handling is such a public relations "disaster" that it makes me wonder about its UN-authenticity... all this free PR could make the book so successful that, assuming all the stuff above about it being largely positive, maybe this is a clever maneuver to get us all to buy the book that Jobs (supposedly!) wants to repress. Ah-HA! We're onto you now, Steve... that IS crafty!

- Arik

Posted by Arik Johnson at May 1, 2005 12:13 PM