Read Something Wonderful

8 Jan 2024

I’ve just started on Make Something Wonderful, from the Steve Jobs Archive:

A curated collection of Steve’s speeches, interviews, and correspondence, Make Something Wonderful offers a window into how one of the world’s most creative entrepreneurs approached his life and work.

Beyond a very limited print run, this is available both online and as a standard ebook. When it first came out, there was a lot of talk amongst the Apple cognoscenti (for example, on Daring Fireball) about how the web version was the superior way to read it.

So far, I’m pretty sure I disagree. The web version is aesthetically nicer in many ways, in particular the typography. However, in terms of the actually reading experience, I think it falls short.

With the ebook, I can load it onto an eInk device (even a Kindle) and read it in comfort. My position is kept consistent across devices, if I want to snatch a few moments to read on my phone. I can make highlights and notes, and these will easily and automatically flow to Readwise and thence Obsidian. It’s a robust and mature ecosystem, and the web version offers only a much reduced, ersatz version of it1.

I’m not suggesting that aesthetics aren’t important, and the flexibility of the modern web allows creators to go beyond what’s possible with the constraints of ePub and similar formats. However, the trade-off is utility.

There’s a similar trade-off between ebooks and physical ones. I very much appreciate a well produced, thoughtfully designed paper book, with gorgeous illustrations and typography, such as Dave Addey’s Typeset in the Future. I have physical copies of my favourite novels to return to again and again. If I’m after the text, rather than the artefact, though, an eBook is usually superior.

There is one ray of light for the web version of Make Something Wonderful, though. Behind its JavaScript and web fonts and scroll hijacking is a standard, reasonably well structured web page. That means you can import the whole thing into a read later service such as Readwise Reader, and reproduce a lot of the practical advantages of the ebook version, at the cost of those aesthetics.

In fact, the foundation have given us the best of both worlds. A casual reader benefits from the lush experience, while those of us who want or need more flexibility can get it. In a world of increasing restrictions and platform tying, that is indeed something wonderful.

  1. It’s not a stretch to see similarities with the much-derided practice of trying to ape a native app in a web view. [back]

This site is maintained by me, Rob Hague. The opinions here are my own, and not those of my employer or anyone else. You can mail me at, and I'm on Mastodon and robhague on Twitter. The site has a full-text RSS feed if you're so inclined.

Body text is set in Georgia or the nearest equivalent. Headings and other non-body text is set in Cooper Hewitt Light. The latter is © 2014 Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, and used under the SIL Open Font License.

All content © Rob Hague 2002-2024, except where otherwise noted.