The Revenge of Analog
Real Things and Why They Matter
Digital was supposed to change the world. But the need for real things is greater than ever. This is the business story—and cultural shift—that David Sax broke in The Revenge of Analog, which shows how retailers and tech giants are fusing screens with analog processes to boost creativity and outsmart the competition. It’s time for a sense of balance, Sax says—for wellbeing, as well as the bottom line.
Digital promised to upend every industry—from retail to manufacturing, education to design. And yet, analog goods and experiences—tactile, lasting, human—are on the rise. David Sax has been the chief chronicler of this resounding shift both on stage and in his acclaimed book, The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter—named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times’ Chief Book Critic, Michiko Kakutani. With common sense and charm, Sax shows how digital’s one-size-fits-all promise is being complemented, enhanced, by a fusion of tangible, analog processes—and that this blend is most popular among digital giants: companies that live and die by innovation. Analog’s resurgence isn’t a throwback, Sax proves, or all about nostalgia. It’s about finding balance—both in how we work, and in our personal lives.
The Revenge of Analog has been long-listed for an Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence, and garnered enthusiastic praise for its blend of psychology, business sense, and old-fashioned reportage. Publishers Weekly calls it a book with “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.” Douglas Rushkoff argues that it “makes a compelling case for the reclamation of terra firma and all that comes with it.”
“Sax is great company, a writer of real and lasting charm.”— The New York Times
A sophisticated analyst of major trends for consumers—and wider culture—Sax is also the author of two other fascinating accounts of pop culture and business. In The Tastemakers: Why We’re Crazy for Cupcakes But Fed Up with Fondue, he argues that food trends are not only a collection of photos on Instagram—they have an everlasting effect on our culture, workforce, economy, health, and day-to-day lives. The New York Times calls it “a romp” through the food industry that will “leave readers wondering about how susceptible we are to the charms of any new food.” His first book, Save the Deli: In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen, won the James Beard Award for Writing and Literature. His other writing appears regularly in The New York Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, The New Yorker’s business blog, and LA Times, and he is a regular feature on CBC Radio and NPR.
It’s now a cliché to announce that business and culture have moved to the digital realm. But while times have changed, the value of analog goods, ideas, and experiences has actually increased. With journalist David Sax, author of the critically acclaimed book The Revenge of Analog, you’ll discover why a return to analog might be a welcome shift—and best for business.
Vinyl records, notebooks, Polaroids, board games, and other seemingly obsolete products have seen robust growth in the last five years. Less efficient, more expensive goods are now coveted consumer items, largely sought out by millennials who want more than phones and apps, and are willing to pay for it. Analog goods offer tactility, authenticity, and emotional experiences that digital programs cannot; their inherent disadvantages are now their chief allure. But the revenge of analog also means we’re rediscovering the relationship between analog ideas and how we learn. Print publishing means better connections for readers, and a higher value for advertisers. Brick and Mortar retailers can deliver better profits than even the best ecommerce operations. Some of the most forward-thinking organizations embracing analog are actually based in digital technology—think Facebook, Google, Evernote, Yelp, and Pinterest, who’ve switched to paper, pen, whiteboards, and tech-free meetings to help employees retain information.
For students of culture, this talk explores the anthropological importance of analog experiences—how we’re also heading back for soulful, deeply human reasons beyond talk of sales. For analog-based companies, Sax’s message is a rallying call to rediscover their worth and potential. And for companies with a strong digital focus, this is a great opportunity to imagine new (and very old!) ways of embracing analog culture for hybridized success.