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Even though it does not hit bookstores for three weeks, Steve Jobs, the authorized biography by former Time managing editor Walter Isaacson, is poised to become the bestselling book of 2011. Since Apple founder Jobs died on Oct. 5, presales of the book have skyrocketed. It is a triple No. 1 — topping the iTunes books, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble bestseller lists. In the first few hours after Jobs’ death the book jumped 42,000 percent on Amazon, going from 424 to No. 1.
Publisher Simon & Schuster appears poised to break the its own opening day sales record, set on July 12 when A Stolen Life, the book by Jaycee Dugard about her 18 years in captivity, sold 175,000 copies, including 100,000 eBooks. Sales of Steve Jobs could also exceed the sales of the best-selling non-fiction book of 2010. Decision Points, George W. Bush’s memoir of his presidential years, sold 2.6 million print copies and 307,000 digital copies in 2010. With Steve Jobs No. 1 on Apple’s digital book list, No. 2 on Amazon, and No. 9 on Barnes & Noble’s Nook list, it should easily surpass the digital sales of Decision Points. Apple’s iTunes bookstore also appears to be a beneficiary of Jobs death.
Apple’s digital bookstore has lagged behind its competitors. Amazon, for example, offers a Kindle app for the iPad that allows users to read their digital books across multiple devices, cutting into the need for iTunes users to adopt the later-to-the-market iBooks format. But the strong sales of Steve Jobs on the Apple bookstore relative to the Kindle and Nook suggests that Apple is drawing new customers who decide to buy Jobs’ biography at his own company’s bookstore.
In response to the public interest, Simon & Schuster advanced the publication date from Nov. 21 to Oct. 24. The publisher had already moved up the date once before. On Aug. 15, nine days before Jobs announced he was stepping down as CEO, the company bumped the date from March 6, 2012 to Nov. 21. It also changed the title from the awkward iSteve: The Book of Jobs to the more straightforward Steve Jobs: A Biography.
Beyond announcing the new publication date, Simon & Schuster did not provide any additional details about the release, including the size of the initial print run or sales expectations.
Simon & Schuster is determined to prevent early copies of the book from leaking out. One publishing insider called the efforts to embargo copies of Steve Jobs prior to publication the tightest ever seen in publishing. A company spokesperson did not respond to a request for additional information. Isaacson’s book agent Binky Urban also did not respond to a request for a comment.
Time magazine, which bought “first serial” rights — the exclusive right to a pre-publication excerpt — rushed to include an excerpt in its Oct. 17 issue featuring Jobs on the cover. Time’s sister publication, Fortune, will run a post-publication second serial excerpt. Other publications are reportedly interested in rarely-sold third serial rights.
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