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Instant: The Story of Polaroid [Kindle Edition]

Christopher Bonanos
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)

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Book Description

"Pictures in a minute!" In the 1950s, '60s, and '70s, Polaroid was the hottest technology company on Earth. They were an innovation machine that cranked out one irresistible product after another. It was even the company after which Steve Jobs is said to have modeled Apple, and the comparison is true. Jobs's hero, Edwin Land, Polaroid's visionary founder, turned his 1937 garage startup into a billion-dollar pop-culture phenomenon. Instant: The Story of Polaroid, a richly illustrated, behind-the-scenes look at the company, tells the tale of Land's extraordinary and beloved invention. From the introduction of Polaroid's first instant camera in 1948 to its meteoric rise and dramatic collapse into bankruptcy in the 2000s, Instant is both a cautionary tale about tech companies that lose their edge and a remarkable story of American ingenuity. Written in a breezy, accessible tone by New York magazine senior editor Chris Bonanos, this first book-length history of Polaroid also features colorful illustrations from Polaroid's history, including the company's iconic branding and marketing efforts.

Editorial Reviews


"Offers up a concise and in-depth cultural history of Polaroid and its brilliant and charismatic leader, Edwin Land. Amidst its carefully constructed narrative of Polaroid's rise, demise, and renaissance.... Land and Polaroid's story are remarkable." --Publishers Weekly, 9/3/2012

"A fascinating tale of rapid rise, catastrophic collapse, and the riveting ride between the two, at once told like never before and strangely familiar in its allegorical quality... brimming with lessons for modern tech mavericks." -- Brain Pickings

"When I was little, long before personal computers, let alone Instagram-enabled digital camera-phones, Arthur C. Clarke wrote that advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. By far the most uncanny, sexy, insanely great piece of technological magic in our household was my parents' Polaroid. Chris Bonanos' smart, thoughtful, charming chronicle of that iconic invention and its remarkable inventor is a delight." -- Kurt Andersen, author of True Believers and Heyday, host of public radio's Studio 360

"This cultural history of the eccentric camera company-which has fair claim to being the Apple of the '60s-is simultaneously breezy and deeply researched, making it the perfect compulsive reading for design enthusiasts and Instagram addicts alike." --

"Tells the story of the forgotten genius who turned Polaroid into a cultural phenomenon." -- Washington Post

"Reading Instant: The Story of Polaroid by Christopher Bonanos rekindled memories of Polaroid cameras for me. And I think it will do the same for legions of others who were also mesmerized back in the day by this cool gizmo, one of America's greatest inventions." -- San Jose Mercury News

"Instant: The Story of Polaroid clocks in at a slim 192 pages, but it manages to be three books in one: a thoroughly charming, fact-filled stroll through the life and times of Edwin Land and the incredible company he built; a brief, poignant recap of Polaroid's plunge from the heights into not one but two wrenching bankruptcies; and a small but lovely collection of Polaroid images taken by well-known artists. Christopher Bonanos's well-researched and well-written book features a terrific Andy Warhol photo of Liza Minnelli, self-portraits by Chuck Close and Robert Mapplethorpe, and a David Hockney collage, along with photos by Walker Evans, Andre Kertesz, and William Wegman. It also includes several photos by Ansel Adams, who signed on as a $100-a-month Polaroid consultant in 1949, when the company made its first move into photography." --

"Edwin Land was one of Steve Jobs's first heroes, and this book shows why. He created a startup in a garage that grew into a company that stood at the intersection of creativity and technology. This is a fascinating saga, both inspiring and cautionary, about innovation and visionary leadership." -- Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs

"Christopher Bonanos tells Polaroid's story with fluid, energetic prose that mirrors the thrilling arc of the company's story, twining together technology, fine art, business, design and pop culture into a 175-page powerhouse. Whether you pick it up because you loved your old Polaroid camera or because you want to find out why Steve Jobs modeled Apple after the Polaroid company, you'll be delighted by this pithy snapshot of a true American icon." --

"A sympathetic and beautifully told history of Polaroid and Edwin Land, the visionary who was the company's founder and presiding genius. It is the rare design-subject book with a truly dramatic arc, and storytelling that lives up to it." -- Design Observer

From the Author

INSTANT: THE STORY OF POLAROID is a book about a very unusual company. In the 1960s and 1970s, Polaroid was what Apple is today: the coolest technology company on earth, the one with irresistible products, the one whose stock kept climbing way past the point of logic. In its heyday, Polaroid was an absolute innovation machine--a scientific think tank that periodically kicked out a fantastically profitable, covetable product. In fact, the late Steve Jobs expressly said that he modeled his company to a great extent after Polaroid.

Instant is a business story, about what happens when a company loses its innovative spark. It is a fine-arts story, showcasing the amazing things photographers (from Ansel Adams to Andy Warhol to Chuck Close) did with Polaroid film. It is a technology story, of a company that created and maintained a niche all its own for 60 years. And it is a pop-culture history, of a friendly product that millions of people absolutely adored. I like to think that it also tells a larger story, about the rise and fall of American invention and manufacturing.

Product Details

  • File Size: 39147 KB
  • Print Length: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press (August 10, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0099RLOI2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #168,317 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An accurate and well written history of Polaroid September 25, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
My father was an engineer in the model shops at Polaroid--he started in 1943 and retired in 1980--and worked often with Dr. Land. Much of the story in this book was dinner-table conversation at our house. Christopher Bonanos gets the story of those years right, particularly the personality traits of Edwin Land, and tells it in a very readable way.

In the years after 1980, I paid less attention to the company (except when the corporate takeover goons took away my mother's pension and health benefits) and the book brought me up to date nicely. I think the recent parts of the story are missing from the other books about Polaroid.

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impossibly great. September 29, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As an instant film and Polaroid enthusiast, I was pretty pumped about getting this book. I was even more delighted when it showed up though. It's fun to read, I knocked the whole thing down on a long day of travel, and I couldn't have been happier with it. It's a great story of the inner workings of a company and a man who had an impossible idea that he made real through with little more than genius and determination.

The book also offers many full-color photo reproductions and impressive illustrations. Whoever art-directed the book gets a high-five from me. It's beautiful.

Folks who like to read about Steve Jobs and crazy CEO-types need to get on the Edwin Land bus. That guy was the OG super controlling genius boss.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A great book, but lackluster Kindle implementation October 5, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have been a long-time admirer of Polaroid (the innovative company, not the one that slaps its badges on sub-par consumer electronics). When I came across this book in my local bookstore, I was enthralled, and read the first 4 chapters in one seating. Not wanting to wait to receive the physical copy, I purchased the Kindle version which I read on my various tablet devices. Unfortunately, while the content is excellent, the presentation of the Kindle version is far inferior to the original book. Firstly, the layout was awkward, with footnotes being relocated to the end of each chapter. Secondly, the formatting was highly suspect. When I flip through the pages I frequently found whole pages missing or repeated. This was especially pronounced when one clicked through the footnote links -- attempting to return to the original text from a footnote often landed one in a completely different section of the chapter! Furthermore, each time the font size was changed, multiple paragraphs will disappear into thin air! This is totally unacceptable, and because of this, even though I ostensibly finished the e-book, I can never be sure how much of it was actually unread!

So in conclusion, 5 stars for the content, 1 star for the formatting.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A very fast read...wishing for more depth on Edwin Land October 21, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I read "Instant" in an least it felt that way. The book is a very enjoyable introduction and overview of the history of Polaroid and Edwin Land. However, after recently reading such excellent historical books like "The Idea Factory/Bell Labs" by Jon Gertner or "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson, "Instant" feels like it has the depth of an extended magazine article. I was particularly hoping for far more depth regarding Edwin Land himself. And it seems like that information is readily available, if the author had chosen to include it: The book makes several repeated references to older, out-of-print biographical books about Land, which unfortunately makes me feel like I should have just read those, instead.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By jrav
I've been fascinated by photography for many years, own about 8 cameras, took a photography course in college, and stare lovingly at my Hasselblad, who patiently waits on my bookshelf for another outing. Last Christmas I asked for a Fuji Instax camera, recalling the days my grandmother and grandfather would show me the "magic" of the Polaroid film.

What Christopher Bonanos does with Polaroid's history is a bit magical itself, briefly discussing the history of film photography up to Eastman's camera "marketed with the slogan `You push the button, we do the rest,' and the little roll of celluloid inside it built an empire" before delving into Polaroid and its creativity.

Even knowing the outcome of Polaroid's business practices, I was tense reading about the ever-evolving world of film cameras. Bonanos lends suspense to the creative process, showing that "the next big thing" actually has to be discovered about four or five years before production if a company wants to stay ahead. Land was proud of his labs, making the rounds and checking out what his team produced. Bonanos tells the story of Howard Rogers and Land's request that he start thinking about color instant film in the late 40s. Two years later, Rogers approached him, and in 1965, Land said, "My point is that we created an environment where a man was expected to sit and think for two years." Eventually, without a creative leader who demanded elegant, complicated, innovative creations from his staff, Polaroid began its downward spiral.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book on Polaroid -- but, oddly, the photos are lacking...
This nicely put together book is a great (and quick) read about the origins of Polaroid, and having been published in 2012, probably the most up-to-date account of it's history. Read more
Published 17 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Instant: The Story of Polaroid
Well written and enlightening!
Published 3 months ago by Ian Mazursky
5.0 out of 5 stars Quick, but thorough read
This was a quick read of the history of Polaroid from its founding by Edwin Land to its current owners. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Rob LaRosa
5.0 out of 5 stars Edwin land- inspiration for Steve jobs!!!
Great story if you love photography !!!! Instant is back as I have a z2300 poleraid digital and instant print.
Published 11 months ago by Alex Wong
5.0 out of 5 stars A must have for any photography enthusiast
Mr. Bonanos fluid and contemporary style makes a delicious reading out of a wonderful story You will love this book, even if you are not a "polaroidian". Read more
Published 13 months ago by Jorge A B Rebello
3.0 out of 5 stars Great story, marginal telling.
The underlying story is compelling, but the writing is only average. The included photographs often seem almost random and it seems much more could have been done to tie more... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Don DeLauder
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable read.
I really loved reading this book. As a photographer it was an interesting story and some great photos. Really we'll told writing kept the pages turning.
Published 16 months ago by Jason Paul
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating- So good I wish it were longer
The author's research really shines as the book captures a level of detail that brings Mr. Land alive. My favorite section covered the Polaroid's litigation against Kodak. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Stephen Thomas Reese III
3.0 out of 5 stars Good overview, a little light on content
I wish it would have gone deeper into relationships between persons as well as the court cases and profiled more of the cameras and technological developments along the way. Read more
Published 19 months ago by DS
5.0 out of 5 stars This book gives instant pleasure
How fortuitous that my husband returned from the library with this marvelous book about a company I was lucky enough to work for at its peak, 1976 to '78 (& for 10 years after as a... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Harriett Harrow
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