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The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter Hardcover – November 8, 2016
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"No matter which side you're on in the debate over digital technology, there's something to cheer you in The Revenge of Analog."―Scott Timberg, New York Times Book Review
"Captivating...Sax provides an insightful and entertaining account of this phenomenon, creating a powerful counternarrative to the techno-utopian belief that we would live in an ever-improving, all-digital world."―Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
"Here is a compulsively readable book after a Luddite's heart.... Sax isn't preaching a return to the pre-Industrial Age, but neither is he embracing the robot overlords. He thoughtfully, wisely, and honestly points out how analog experiences enhance digital creativity and how humans benefit from what both have to offer. Essential reading."―Booklist, Starred Review
"A perky and well-illustrated... look at a discordantly retro cultural trend."―Kirkus Reviews
"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."―Publishers Weekly
"The more advanced our digital technologies, the more we come to realize that reality rules. David Sax reassures us surviving members of team human that material existence is alive and well, and makes a compelling case for the reclamation of terra firma and all that comes with it."―Douglas Rushkoff, author of Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus
"Hang on digital mavens, the real world ain't going anywhere. In The Revenge of Analog, David Sax shows the continued importance of the physical stuff to how we live and work today."―Richard Florida, author of Rise of the Creative Class
"We all thought the digital age would be the end of analog media--and we were wrong. In this smart, funny, glorious book, David Sax explains why so many of us still crave the tactile, sensual experience of listening to music on vinyl records and taking notes with pencil and paper. Turn off your electronic devices, find a quiet place, and savor this remarkable book."―Dan Lyons, bestselling author of Disrupted
"The better digital gets, the more important analog becomes. In this fun tour of modern culture, David Sax has collected hundreds of ways that an analog approach can improve our newest inventions. Sax's reporting is eye-opening and mind-changing."―Kevin Kelly, founding executive editor of Wired and author of The Inevitable
"David Sax has written a brilliant cri de coeur about the way things used to be, should be, and, increasingly, are becoming once again. The Revenge of Analog reminds us that it wasn't so long ago that records were vinyl, laces were double knotted and the mailbox at the end of the driveway was lovingly banged up. It's a book that brings something even more rare than a perfect song at the perfect moment-hope."―Rich Cohen, cocreator of HBO's Vinyl and author of The Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones
About the Author
David Sax is a writer and reporter who specializes in business and culture. His work appears regularly in Bloomberg Businessweek, the New Yorker's Currency blog, 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.
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The author points out that online book sales have tremendously expanded-- but amazingly, the huge expansion has NOT been huge profits. That is, they "fail at the one thing they’re supposed to do." The author is right to point out this amazing contradiction. In fact, Amazon's book business is only slight profitable--and that recently. I confess I never really saw that issue before.
The author points out that vinyl records have also made an amazing comeback. Everyone thought they were dead. However, in 2015, vinyl sales became a big deal. Why? The author suggests this: "Because consumers spend money to acquire them, they gain a genuine sense of ownership over the music, which translates into pride. That’s cool."
Board games are another booming area that is primarily analog. In board games, one board game in particular has changed the game landscape--the wildly popular, "Settlers of Catan, invented by a German dental technician. In our family, my daughters and their friends were obsessed with this game.
My favorite area of this book are the chapters on education, and how digital has not really helped schools much.
The great hopes have largely not been realized, despite millions--and sometimes BILLIONS of dollars spent. (I recall seeing in the news a billion dollars spent in the Los Angeles School District. I wondered at the time if that was really a wise expenditure.)
Despite the great claims for digital learning, the author notes that even the most sophisticated digital devices offer less actual learning than the simplest of tools: "Even the best educational computer programs and games, devised with the help of the best educators, contain a tiny fraction of the outcomes of a single child equipped with a crayon and paper." Studies show that this mass distribution of computers have not lived up to the promises. The Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development concluded that students often do WORSE in most learning situations, and that "technology did nothing to improve scores across subjects."
Digital devices in many cases don't actually offer any substantial improvement--it's just a different format. The computers look cool, but "often just provide distractions."
Some of the richest companies on Earth are actually the biggest fans of analog. The author cites Yelp, for example. The company common areas are filled with whiteboards--not digital screens. This strikes the author as ironic: "Surely one of the leading technology companies in the world could afford the latest digital smart boards."
Yelp also realizes the important of a physical presence in their user base. Yelp runs parties and dinners for the "Yelp Elites." These are like the "Marines" driving the Yelp business. "Elites are selected for their dedication and enthusiasm."
Finally, the author reminisces about his childhood visiting "Camp Walden." The author cites this camp as a place that realize the limitations of digital. The camp now has a strict technology policy. The camp leaders want to develop social skills, not computer skills: “We look at the heart of what we do, and it is interpersonal relationships." If something doesn't help interpersonal relationships--it's out: "We want campers to experience nature with all their senses, and engage directly with each other without the separation of a screen."
All in all, I found THE REVENGE OF ANALOG to be an interesting read, with lots of surprising information. I would never have believed that the independent bookstore was making a comeback. Well, now I know. I especially appreciate the author pointing out how digital devices often impede good social interaction.
Advance Review Copy courtesy of NetGalley.
A good companion book is Adam Adler's Irresistible on tech addictions.