On Apple, Wiley, and the Spurning of Books

In retaliation for John Wiley and Sons’ forthcoming publication of an unauthorized biography of Steve Jobs, Apple has instructed that all Wiley books be removed from the shelves of all Apple retail stores. The story first broke publicly Tuesday in Mercury News’ Silicon Valley Report. Later the story was picked up by Associated Press. Bloggers are picking it up as well, one by one.

The bare bones of the story are that Wiley provided Apple with a pre-release copy of a forthcoming unauthorized biography by Jeffrey S. Young with William L. Simon iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business. The book is a successor to Young’s 1987 unauthorized Jobs biography, The Journey Is the Reward. Discussions ensued. Apple, presumably after failing to convince Wiley to withdraw the book from publication, has ordered that all Wiley’s books be removed from Apple’s stores.

The Silicon Valley Report quotes Kitt Allan (Wiley Vice President and Publisher, Professional/Trade Division):

It became increasingly clear that Apple was not happy with the publication of the book.

Recently, the meaning of that became clear when Apple told us that our technology books were immediately being pulled from their Apple retail stores. But, of course, Wiley stands behind our authors.

Wiley, of course, did the right thing, what any publisher would do, when it believes in the quality of its books. While I understand Jobs’ dismay, and possibly outrage, at being biographied against his will, I note that he is a public figure, and that the biography, at least according to Young, is favorable. According to the Silicon Valley Report, which quotes Young:

“the original book was quite negative. It leaves you the impression of this young guy who was quite a jerk, has no social graces, has a lot of skill but may not be worthy of acclaim” said Young. The new book reflects a matured Jobs.

I really wish Jobs hadn’t chosen to punish Wiley by removing Wiley’s books from Apple’s stores; he’s not hurting Wiley, but he is hurting me, and my spouse. Why? Because my spouse, Michael E. Cohen, is a Wiley author, as is his brother and sometimes co-author Dennis R. Cohen.

Michael and Dennis Cohen have just finished The Mac Xcode 2 Book, one of the volumes in the new Andy Ihnatko series, scheduled for release May 23. Now, while you may think me biased, I assure you I’m not when I say The Mac Xcode 2 Book is a really good book. It’s written for people who already know how to program, but want to learn about OS X 10.4 / Tiger’s development environment, Xcode 2, part of the developer tools included in every copy of Tiger. Xcode is sweet, but Xcode 2 is even sweeter. Just the support for all the built in goodness of Cocoa alone is amazing, never mind the ease of UI creation. Really. And this book is a clear, witty, thorough, and fun, overview of what you need to know to use Xcode 2, including stuff like how to take advantage of Xcode’s support for Subversion, and using Xcode’s debugging tools. The Mac Xcode 2 Book is the perfect introduction for the developer new to Xcode 2, and it really belongs in Apple’s stores. But you won’t find it there.

By withdrawing Wiley books from Apple retail stores, Apple isn’t hurting Wiley at all. Apple’s hurting Wiley’s Mac authors, people like Michael and Dennis Cohen, Bob LeVitus, a beloved and respected Mac authority, and Wiley author, Mac Hack guru and Wiley author Scott Knaster— people who have been spending their advance money on Apple hardware and software for years. Apple’s also hurting the Mac users, especially the new users, who won’t find really excellent books like those by Michael and Dennis and other Wiley published authors on Apple’s shelves. And Wiley? The pre-orders for Young’s iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business are booming. Even though the book won’t be available until May 27, in the three days since the story broke, it’s moved rapidly up to slot 144 in Amazon’s book rankings. Wiley won’t care; they’ll actually probably make a nice profit from extra sales of Young’s book because of the publicity; I’m certainly curious now, and I wouldn’t have been interested in the book before Apple’s decision to punish Wiley.

UPDATE:As of 8:30 AM Pacific, 04/28/2004, Young’s book’s current Amazon sales rank is #33.