You've probably heard me talk before about David Sax's wildly popular new book, The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter, which explores the modern resurgence in "analog" technologies and what the author believes to be the reasons for it. While I'm hesitant to tell anyone that they should read any book, I'm pretty confident that anyone who's a regular reader of a blog like this one would find Revenge of Analog worth their while.
Sax divides the book into two sections: "The Revenge of Analog Things," and "The Revenge of Analog Ideas." The first talks about the recent resurgence of products previously considered "obsolete": vinyl records, paper, film, and board games. The second takes a broader look at the role of analog in society, specifically with regard to print media, retail space, our work and school lives, and even summer camp. The book confirms what many readers of this blog probably already know: the "purely digital life" can feel pretty empty, even pointless, and making an effort to reemphasize analog can breathe some life back into it.
The reason our increasingly digital world can be so profoundly unsatisfying is because it can't replace what analog offers: a tactile experience that engages with all our senses, not just "ones and zeros" stored on a hard drive and viewed through a screen. How many of you remember forming a strong emotional attachment to your physical music collection (whether vinyl records, CDs, or tapes)? Now how many of you feel the same about your Apple Music or Spotify library, or even all those songs you have scanned into iTunes? The same goes for pens. I have pens that I carried through middle and high school, some of which were given to me by friends and family (including a couple people who are no longer with us). Those things were a part of my life for many years, and I can still use them today and recapture some of those memories, unlike the dozen or so now-obsolete computers that I used during that same period.
If you're still on the fence about the book, or if you've already read it and want to dive a little deeper, I highly recommend listening to Harry Marks' interview with David Sax on his podcast Covered. During the interview, Sax made a point that resonated with me: much of the analog resurgence is about people giving themselves permission to dive back in. For years, many people - myself included - actually felt guilty about continuing to rely heavily on analog products when the world supposedly was becoming all digital (Why are all those records and CD's still taking up so much room? Why are you killing so many trees still writing on paper, in a notebook?) Once "the establishment" began acknowledging the actual benefits of analog, more and more people realized that they weren't alone out there in feeling that, at least for certain things, analog works better than the "newer" digital alternative. In the news, the narrative has now shifted from predominantly analog companies (i.e., Borders and Kodak) shutting down or severely curtailing their operations, to the current reality of thriving independent book and stationery stores. As Sax put it, "[p]eople don't want to invest in a dying idea, even if they love it, but they will readily pour money into something that seems to be growing, especially if it is against the general trend."
I don't think the current analog resurgence is a "fad" or "hipster fetishism," as many (especially in the tech community) would have their prospective customers believe. Its benefits are real. Most of us understand with respect to working and writing with pen, pencil, and paper, but this book encourages you to take it further and go out and buy an instant film camera, or rediscover records by picking up an inexpensive turntable. Personally, I've retired my Apple Watch and have gone completely analog with my wrist-wear. I've also got Fuji Instax pictures tacked to my workspaces at home and in the office.
And at the end of the day, digital vs. analog shouldn't be an "all-or-nothing" proposition. There's room for both. Those of you who subscribe to my Digital Divide newsletter have heard me discuss how embracing digital simply works better for certain things. Somewhat ironically, the internet has actually contributed to keeping analog alive and fueling its growing resurgence, by giving analog enthusiasts a venue in which to form thriving online communities, and retailers of analog goods a new way to connect with consumers, many of whom have no brick-and-mortar options in the town where they live.
Revenge of Analog has sold incredibly well. In fact, it's so popular that it's currently sold out on Amazon (but should be back in stock later this month, so you can pre-order). If you live near a brick and mortar bookseller, whether it's independent or a Barnes & Noble, you may still be able to find it there, and I highly recommend that you pick up a copy.
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