So, does Steve Jobs get punished this time for his boorish, anti-free speech, crush-the-little-guy behavior? Or does he once again get a pass because he builds such cool products?
As you no doubt have read, Apple Computer Inc. (read: Steve Jobs, because the company would never do this on its own accord), angry that the venerable publisher John Wiley & Sons is about to publish a book entitled "iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business," has ordered every Wiley-published book to be yanked from the shelves in all 104 Apples stores around the world.
What this means is that Apple (read: Steve Jobs) has decided to not only punish Wiley and the book's author, Jeffrey Young, but also the innocent authors of such other Wiley books as "Mac for Dummies." The books apparently have been boxed up and sent back to the publisher.
Meanwhile, according to Apple flack Steve Dowling -- who probably thought he had the world's coolest job before was forced to justify the equivalent of a book burning -- announced that Apple executives were declining to comment. No kidding. What that really means is that they think the whole idea is stupid and self-defeating, but they learned a long time ago not to argue with the overgrown child they have to report to, especially when he is in mid-tantrum.
Meanwhile, unfortunately, the author of the book, Jeffrey Young, responded with dismay. Jobs, he whimpered, had nothing to fear from "iCon." "I thought the book was pretty positive and laudatory," he 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." Yeah, and he's probably wondering why he ever tried to be so nice to his subject.
Wiley, to its credit going ahead with publication of the book, sadly mewed something about having "worked very hard to establish a good relationship with Apple."
This is exactly the wrong approach to take, particularly with a character like Steve Jobs. What Young should be saying is that as soon as the book is published, he plans to go on a promotional tour in which he will read all the juicy stuff about Steve Jobs that was cut out of the book -- as well as repeat every rumor he heard about Jobs.
Meanwhile, Wiley should grow a pair and immediately rush into production a mountain of stickers that can be affixed to "iCon" announcing "The book Steve Jobs doesn't want you to read."
Finally, every other publisher of Apple-related books, in solidarity with Wiley and in defense of the freedom to publish, should voluntarily remove their own books from Apple Stores -- effectively ending bookselling at those stores at least until the other Wiley books are returned to the shelves. Meanwhile, independent bookstores should add "iCon" to their annual "Banned Book Month" displays, right next to Huckleberry Finn and the Satanic Verses.
Now, having said all of that, I should probably take a moment to explain all of my many conflicts of interest in this matter. I don't know Jeffrey Young, but I have read his stuff. Wiley, meanwhile, published a collection my writings (including some of these columns) a couple years back.