Steve Jobs bio debuts at No. 1 spot on bestseller lists

News of Apple co-founder's death provided publicity bonanza, says expert

Steve Jobs book cover
Steve Jobs, the only bio ever authorized by the iconic CEO, led bestseller lists on its release. (Image: Simon & Schuster.)

The biography of Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs debuted today at the top of both Amazon's and Barnes & Nobles' bestseller lists.

Steve Jobs, the first biography of the iconic entrepreneur written with Jobs' cooperation, was penned by Walter Isaacson, a former editor at Time. Isaacson has written bestselling biographies of Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein and Henry Kissinger.

The book currently heads the Kindle, hardcover and audiobook bestseller lists at Amazon, and the hardcover, Nook and audiobook categories at rival Barnes & Noble.

However, sales figures from the industry's main metrics firm, Nielsen BookScan, won't be available for more than a week.

Earlier this month, Simon & Schuster moved up the publication of Steve Jobs from Nov. 21 to today. The New York-based publisher confirmed the new release date a day after Jobs died of complications from a rare form of pancreatic cancer.

At one point, the biography had been slated for a March 2012 launch.

The push to get the book out sooner was no surprise to Jim Milliot, editorial director at Publishers Weekly, the book-selling industry's leading journal.

"Publishers do this all the time, take a news hook," said Milliot today. "Not to be crass, but that's the sell."

Although the biography would have done well in any case because it was the only one ever authorized by Jobs -- who conducted more than 40 interviews with Isaacson -- Milliot said the news of Jobs' death and the resulting flood of accolades were publicity bonanzas.

"[Simon & Schuster] has received tons of free publicity, so it's working out great for them," said Milliot.

The publisher may have incurred additional printing costs when it shifted the release date from March 2012 to November of this year, but the follow-up four-week advance would not have been a problem, said Milliot.

Jobs was 56 when he died Oct. 5.

Last Wednesday, CEO Tim Cook led a companywide celebration of Jobs' life on Apple's Cupertino, Calif. campus, and the company closed its retail stores worldwide for several hours to allow those employees to watch a live broadcast.

An 80-minute video of the celebration is now available to the public on Apple's website.

On the same day, Apple launched a tribute page that cycled through some of the one million condolence messages the company received from customers and former employees.

Steve Jobs sells for $17.88 in hardcover at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and $16.99 in e-book format.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or on Google+, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more articles by Gregg Keizer.

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