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The Revenge of Analog

Cover of The Revenge of Analog

The Revenge of Analog

Real Things and Why They Matter
by David Sax
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One of Michiko Kakutani's (New York Times) top ten books of 2016

A funny thing happened on the way to the digital utopia. We've begun to fall back in love with the very analog goods and ideas the tech gurus insisted that we no longer needed. Businesses that once looked outdated, from film photography to brick-and-mortar retail, are now springing with new life. Notebooks, records, and stationery have become cool again. Behold the Revenge of Analog.
David Sax has uncovered story after story of entrepreneurs, small business owners, and even big corporations who've found a market selling not apps or virtual solutions but real, tangible things. As e-books are supposedly remaking reading, independent bookstores have sprouted up across the country. As music allegedly migrates to the cloud, vinyl record sales have grown more than ten times over the past decade. Even the offices of tech giants like Google and Facebook increasingly rely on pen and paper to drive their brightest ideas.
Sax's work reveals a deep truth about how humans shop, interact, and even think. Blending psychology and observant wit with first-rate reportage, Sax shows the limited appeal of the purely digital life-and the robust future of the real world outside it.

One of Michiko Kakutani's (New York Times) top ten books of 2016

A funny thing happened on the way to the digital utopia. We've begun to fall back in love with the very analog goods and ideas the tech gurus insisted that we no longer needed. Businesses that once looked outdated, from film photography to brick-and-mortar retail, are now springing with new life. Notebooks, records, and stationery have become cool again. Behold the Revenge of Analog.
David Sax has uncovered story after story of entrepreneurs, small business owners, and even big corporations who've found a market selling not apps or virtual solutions but real, tangible things. As e-books are supposedly remaking reading, independent bookstores have sprouted up across the country. As music allegedly migrates to the cloud, vinyl record sales have grown more than ten times over the past decade. Even the offices of tech giants like Google and Facebook increasingly rely on pen and paper to drive their brightest ideas.
Sax's work reveals a deep truth about how humans shop, interact, and even think. Blending psychology and observant wit with first-rate reportage, Sax shows the limited appeal of the purely digital life-and the robust future of the real world outside it.

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About the Author-
  • David Sax is a writer and reporter who specializes in business. His work appears regularly in the New York Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, NewYorker.com, Saveur, the Grid Toronto, and other publications. He is the author of Save the Deli, which won a James Beard Award for Writing and Literature; and The Tastemakers. He lives in Toronto.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    August 15, 2016
    In this study of consumerism in the 21st century, Sax (Save the Deli) sets out to prove that nostalgia is not the sole reason for the resurgence of vinyl records, film cameras, paper notebooks, and bookstores in an era dominated by digital technology. He travels across the United States, Canada, and Italy, visiting factories and startups, stores and cafes, where the focus is on solidifying a place for analog technologies and goods in a world full of screens, instant messages, and almost endless digital choices at one’s fingertips. Lastly, he investigates the meditative practices of executives in Silicon Valley and returns to a summer camp he attended as a child outside of Toronto, discovering how the people one might most expect to be glued to their illuminated screens–computer programmers and kids–are limiting technology’s place in their lives. Sax’s message is that digital technology has certainly made life easier, but the analog technologies of old can make life more rich and substantial. This book has a calming effect, telling readers, one analog page at a time, that tangible goods, in all their reassuring solidity, are back and are not going anywhere. Agent: Robert Guinsler, Sterling Lord Literistic.

  • Kirkus

    October 1, 2016
    An exploration of millennial fondness for old technologies and its implications for a competitive business landscape.Toronto-based journalist Sax (The Tastemakers: Why We're Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue, 2014, etc.) became curious why peers in his tech-focused circle were buying turntables and Moleskine notebooks: Certain technologies and processes that had recently been rendered obsolete suddenly began to show new life.Every week Id walk down the street and find a new boutique focused on an analog pursuit. Structurally, the author relies on the titular conceit of cultural revenge, as each chapter focuses on the revenge of paper, film, retail, and so forth. He finds support for his argument about the new vitality of analog in various anecdotal narratives, the strongest parts of the book. His point is most vividly made by the commercial resurgence of vinyl records, startling industry vets like the now-thriving United Record Pressing of Nashville. As the author notes, the [digital] streaming services have proven technology, but unproven business models, which are now being undercut by the tangible, collectible profitability of records. Similarly, Sax sees in Torontos packed board game cafes a mecca of analog funand an example of how a tangible community is closely tied to analogs revenge. He also shares a charming underdog story from Italy, where revival of the fragile FILM Ferrania factory is underway, and the shrewd lifestyle marketing of Moleskine (which actually revived a dormant notebook style described by Bruce Chatwin, thus inventing a symbol of creativity). Sax identifies intriguing representations of the swing toward analog, but his argument becomes more diffuse when linked to the less quirky and forgiving worlds of work, school, and digital innovation. He relies on a broad but shallow pool of interviewees, talking to a few innovators in each chaptere.g., the manager of Facebooks Analog Research Laboratory, who avers, the mission of the lab is to provoke and instill creativity in people. A perky and well-illustrated but repetitive, sometimes-pat look at a discordantly retro cultural trend.

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    October 15, 2016

    Passion is what fuels the analog revolution. Therefore, it is no coincidence that the most interesting chapters of this book are those in which the author is personally invested. It is clear that reporter Sax (The Tastemakers) loves vinyl, bookstores, and writing on paper. His descriptions of searching the bargain bins at his local record store or getting the perfect recommendation from the staff at a favorite bookstore demonstrate that Sax is not only reporting this movement, he's part of it. Even some of the areas he's less expert in, such as film manufacturing, reveal a lively interest and keen understanding of analog enthusiasts. However, in the chapters "Revenge of Work" and "Revenge of School," the benefits of analog are clear, but the evidence is shaky. When talking about work, Sax seems oddly blind to the utter lack of sustainability. On schools, he identifies many failures of educational technology (such as smart boards) yet offers none of the enthusiasm for analog found in the earlier sections. VERDICT Readers who eschew Kindles and iPods or who want to "unplug" will relish this title.--Cate Hirschbiel, Iwasaki Lib., Emerson Coll., Boston

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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Real Things and Why They Matter
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