Biographer: Why Jobs finally opened up

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs

Before his death, Steve Jobs told his chosen biographer that he wanted to leave a documentary record so that his children would have a better understanding of their larger-than-life father.

"I wanted my kids to know me," Jobs told Walter Isaacson, who is the author of an authorized biography of Apple's co-founder, titled "Steve Jobs."

Isaacson recounted his time interviewing Jobs in an essay published on Time's website. In particular, he noted their final conversation when he asked this very private man why he agreed to reveal so much in a book?

"I wasn't always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did," Jobs answered, referring to his four children.

Meanwhile, pre-orders of the biography pushed the book high on best-seller lists within hours of Apple's announcement of Jobs' death. And publisher Simon & Schuster announced Thursday that the release date has been moved up from Nov. 21 to Oct. 24. By today, Isaacson's "Steve Jobs" was No. 1 on Amazon.com and No. 3 on Barnes & Noble.com. Fittingly, the book also tops Apple's own list: the iTunes books best-seller list.

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Walter Isaacson
AP
Isaacson said Jobs approached him in 2004 with a request to write his biography just before undergoing his first surgery for pancreatic cancer. "He had been scattershot friendly to me over the years, with occasional bursts of intensity, especially when he was launching a new product that he wanted on the cover of TIME or featured on CNN, places where I'd worked. But now that I was no longer at either of those places, I hadn't heard from him much," he recounted in the essay.

When Jobs asked him to write his life story, Isaacson passed on the request.

"Not now," he wrote. "Maybe in a decade or two, when you retire."

"But I later realized that he had called me just before he was going to be operated on for cancer for the first time. As I watched him battle that disease, with an awesome intensity combined with an astonishing emotional romanticism, I came to find him deeply compelling, and I realized how much his personality was ingrained in the products he created. His passions, demons, desires, artistry, devilry and obsession for control were integrally connected to his approach to business, so I decided to try to write his tale as a case study in creativity."

Isaacson offered more details about Jobs' obsessive pursuit of aesthetically pleasing designs - a quest some described as perfectionism. For Jobs, though, it wasn't a question of being a control freak; rather, he said Apple was trying to create the best user experience for customers who routinely put up with kludgy hardware and software.

"They're busy doing whatever they do best, and they want us to do what we do best. Their lives are crowded. They have other things to do than think about how to integrate their computers and devices," he's quoted saying. 

Jobs died on Wednesday at age 56.

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    Charles Cooper is an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet. E-mail Charlie.

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