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114 of 130 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Inside Steve's Bladder, June 30, 2008
This review is from: Inside Steve's Brain (Hardcover)
It's a curious fact that, unlike previous advances in communications technology, the computer revolution has produced only one real celebrity. As movies, radio and TV came along, each spawned dozens of superstars, but with computers, electronics and the Internet, it's only Steve Jobs. Yes, we know who Bill Gates is, but he is regarded only as some fabulously wealthy tycoon -- similar to Warren Buffett or C. Montgomery Burns. But soon, there will be more celebrity profiles written about Steve Jobs than about Elvis or Marilyn Monroe combined.

Unfortunately, such books are seldom literary masterpieces, and "Inside Steve's Brain" by Leander Kahney seems thrown together to make a quick buck. It contains little information that has not seen print many times, and it's certain that Steve Jobs, always wary of the press, provided no more cooperation to Leander Kahney than he would to "Tiger Beat."

Marketed as a sympathetic look at Chairman Steve, the book dishes no dirt. There's no dish at all. Instead, we get yet another history of Apple Computer, a history of Pixar, an interview with Apple's senior vice president for industrial design, Jonathan Ive, the same accounts of the releases of the iPod and the iPhone that you read in the newspaper, and a fulsome testimonial to the Apple Stores. All this may be of interest to someone who is very young or who has just returned from a long journey to a distant galaxy, but the rest of us already know what Jobs said to John Sculley to lure him away from Pepsi Cola. (Hint: something about selling sugar water.)

In the place of any new information, Mr. Kahney relies on traditional techniques used by schoolboys who must submit a book report for a book they didn't quite read -- padding and repetition and padding and also repetition, a remarkable amount of repetition.

For instance, on page 142 we learn that "When Jobs hired Ron Johnson from Target to head up Apple's retail effort, he asked him to use an alias for several months lest anyone get wind that Apple was planning to open retail stores. Johnson was listed on Apple's phone directory under a false name, which he used to check into hotels."

In case the reader has forgotten this information by page 207, we are again told, "At first Johnson couldn't tell anyone he was working for Apple. He used the alias John Bruce . . . and a phony title to stop competitors from getting wind of Apple's retail plans."

Readers who give serious study to this book will certainly wish to use their yellow highlighters on the amazing fact that the Apple Stores are, ". . . not too big and not too small." Those who have been too timid to enter an Apple Store will be glad to learn on page 203 that, "There's no pressure to spend any money, and the staff is happy to answer any question." And those who are unable to form any short-term memories will be delighted to learn on page 204 that, "There is no pressure to spend, and the staff is friendly and helpful." A sentence later it is revealed that, "Apple's stores are no-pressure hangouts where the customers can play with the machines . . ." All of which makes one relieved that Apple has enough sense not to hire such a hack to write the copy for its ads.

If you have been misinformed and assume that people are interested in computers as furniture, Leander Kahney provides a lightning-bolt of a revelation: "Customers rarely buy computers for the hardware alone; they're more interested in the software it can run." This stuff's gold, people, gold! But as for Apple's iLife suite of applications -- iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand-- "They haven't proven to be killer apps."

So if the book is nothing but threadbare history of Apple and a panegyric to the pressure-free marvel of Apple Stores, why is it called "Inside Steve's Brain"? Because the glory contained inside is that Leander Kahney ends each chapter with a list of "Lessons from Steve," and these are surely the most inspiring truisms you've ever read. Perhaps you'll want to copy these onto flash cards and carry them in your hat band:
* Seek out opportunities.
* Don't worry where the ideas come from.
* Don't be afraid of trial and error.
* Embrace the team.
* Don't lose sight of the customer.
* Concentrate on products.
* Seek out the highest quality.
* Don't force it.
* Find an easy way to present new ideas.

Each of these "Lessons from Steve" (none of which were ever spoken by Steve, of course) is so inspiring that any one of them could replace the "Work Smarter, Not Harder" sign in your cubicle. If he is capable of dispensing such scintillating wisdom, surely "Wired" magazine is too lowly a station for a man of Leander Kahney's talents. I believe it's only a matter of time until he moves up to a medium most suited to his gift with words: say, the covers of matchbooks, washing instruction tags on garments, the safety warnings which begin the owner's manuals of cheap appliances.
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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 5, 2009 7:03:16 PM PST
Rolltide says:
Another history of apple computer? This book starts in 1997 almost everything written about apple is before that.

Apple was selling at $5 a share when jobs took over it is at $91 now 11.5 years later. That's not worth writing about? It's a business book!

Posted on Mar 31, 2009 12:09:57 PM PDT
Jane K says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Jul 1, 2009 4:43:58 AM PDT
Which is your favorite book about Apple or Steve Jobs? I've read a decent handful myself.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 8, 2009 8:49:56 PM PDT
Revolution in The Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made

Posted on Nov 6, 2009 4:54:31 PM PST
Abacus says:
This is a really funny and well written review. I am reading it just as I have checked out the book from the library. It is a bit discouraging (certainly not encouraging). But, at least in my case the price is right.

The reviewer also achieves something seldom seen. And that is to gather the most helpful votes including a very high helpful votes%. Usually, when one criticizes a book one runs into a fanatical crowd of support for the author's opinion.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 18, 2009 3:48:20 PM PST
Clayton says:
I've had my share of poorly written books, thanks for the warning.

Posted on Jun 3, 2010 2:09:10 AM PDT
A. Heg says:
Funny and insightful! I think you should write a book :)

Posted on Sep 12, 2011 12:15:02 PM PDT
Mr. Edwards,
Excellent review - your points are well-taken. I'm halfway through the book now, and skimming with longer strides through the remaining pages. I do think the idea of the book is a good one, and some of the author's description of Jobs's working methods are valuable. Sadly, that value is stretched thin over this badly-written book. The book's faults could have been greatly reduced by skillful editing. Where are editors, in our new century?

Posted on Mar 3, 2013 10:33:39 PM PST
Clark Kent says:
I chuckled quite a bit as I read your review. It seems you possess a real gift for satire. And thank you for the fair warning.
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