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Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by…
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Makers: The New Industrial Revolution

by Chris Anderson

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It’s easier than ever before to be an entrepreneur and start a business. This is a good thing. Chris Anderson starts with this basic premise in his book Makers: The New Industrial Revolution. And he’s not just talking about web-based and cloud-based businesses that dominate the world of startups. He’s talking about the “Real World of Places and Stuff.” In other words, businesses that make things.

He’s talking about manufacturing… You’re thinking: Isn’t manufacturing dying? But consider this statistic. According to Anderson, the digital economy is roughly $20 trillion. Beyond the Web, the economy of things is $130 trillion. (Whoa. Yes, that got my attention, too.)

Manufacturing isn’t dying. It’s being transformed.

The central idea in Makers is that the same basic conditions of technology, funding, distribution, and demand in the economy of bits can drive a revolution in the economy of things.

Makers is divided up into two parts: Part One discusses “The Revolution”—what it looks like and why and how it’s happening. The most interesting chapter in that section is Chapter 4 “We Are All Designers Now.” Anderson starts off with a fascinating discussion about how we all became our own designers in the economy of bits when desktop publishing became all the rage. We take it for granted now, but think back to how MS Word and PowerPoint made it so easy to make digital documents that could then be distributed or printed from home. Printing and designing a document used to be a manufacturing process; printing presses were huge factories. From there, Anderson pitches readers the new frontiers being carved out in the world of things through 3-D printing.

It’s like the world of bits and things, which were largely separate in the 20th century, suddenly collided and recombined.

What are the possibilities? Enormous. Think: furniture, toys, machine parts, even human organs. A world that is sometimes called the “Internet of Things.” Think of the future of new industries focused purely on designing bespoke templates that could then be sold, shared, or circulated. With printers at home or at community hacker spaces (e.g., TechShop), individuals and households can become their own makers.

Anderson quotes MIT professor Neil Gershenfeld’s speech at Maker Faire:

“I realized that the killer app for digital fabrication is personal fabrication. Not to make what you can buy in Wal-Mart, but to make what you can’t buy in Wal-Mart.”

Artisanal, small-batch manufacturing. That’s the maker revolution.

Part Two of the book is boldly titled “The Future.” This section covers all the tools and conditions that make the maker revolution possible. Anderson discusses the familiar territory of new markets (Chapter 7), organizational changes (Chapter 9), crowdfunding (Chapter 10), and the cloud (Chapter 11). Granted, these ideas are only familiar to most readers because we think of all that in terms of web-based businesses or businesses in the digital space. Until five years ago, a microentrepreneur that made things didn’t really have access. It was expensive and time-consuming to make something at market-scale. Now what we’re seeing is a dovetailing of that technology that made it so easy for digital entrepreneurs with the manufacturing space.

It looks like this: You can create prototypes on your computer with off-the-shelf or free, open-source software like SketchUp and Tinkercad. The power of information-sharing through social networks and communication platforms makes it easy to collaborate on design with your end-users, fostering intimate connections with your markets. Then you can upload your prototype file to a 3-D printer or factory, which can then produce whatever you need, whether it’s a hundred or a million widgets. Need financing and captial? Crowdfund your product through Kickstarter or put your design on Quirky. From there, you can sell your product on Etsy, Alibaba, or other global marketplace, which takes care of distribution.

Inventing and creating are no longer separate processes.

What is the impact of this maker movement on growth? That is the darker question. Anderson argues that growth within this new economic paradigm means more productivity, albeit with less workers. This may be disturbing to some. The idea of massive companies with large workforces that sustain a middle class is more a throwback to the 1950s and 1960s than the future Anderson is imagining. Fewer jobs tend to sustain higher tech manufacturing. It is a bitter pill to swallow.

But Anderson is zealously optimistic. In a 2012 interview with Forbes, Anderson explained it this way:

“This movement, through the use of the traditional engine of the start-up economy, small business, plus the Web’s innovation model of opening up to lots more people, plus automation, ends up bringing more manufacturing back to the West, the United States in particular. I’m confident that digital fabrication technology, just like the personal computer and the Web before it, will ultimately be a job driver in the U.S.”

His book largely reflects this optimistic outlook on the 21st century workshop. Is it realistic? Too soon to say…

As a publisher of a previous book on the new economy, Working in the UnOffice, I have much to admire in Anderson’s Makers. The values that underlie the maker revolution are the same that feed the coworking movement: collaboration and openness. What is really revolutionary about the maker movement is the access it is giving people. Anyone can be a maker entrepreneur. Anyone can be a company. “The beauty of the Web is that it democratized the tools both of invention and production,” Anderson writes. “We are all designers now. It’s time to get good at it.”

The writing in Makers is analytical and insightful, yet personal, too. Readers will find personal, colorful anecdotes from Anderson entertaining. The book also includes a wonderful appendix of technical resources, including “Getting started with CAD,” “Getting started with laser cutting,” and “Getting started with CNC machines.”

Overall, Makers is a compelling book for people looking to get a glimpse of the future. It is wonderfully written and chock full of useful information even for those who aren’t budding makers.

[Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for an honest and candid review.] ( )
  gendeg | Sep 5, 2014 |
Excellent overview of 3D printing and small batch manufacturing, told with good case studies and anecdotes. Anderson coveys the feeling we're on the edge of something big. Cobbled together from vaguely-related magazine articles though. ( )
  adzebill | Feb 5, 2014 |
In this book, Chris Anderson (the former editor of Wired, not the head of TED) gives an interesting account of the maker movement. Makers are people who are using the latest technology, such as 3D printers like the MakerBot Replicator 2, to create physical objects, both for themselves and to sell to others. Makers are both taking hobbies to a new level and creating businesses based on mass customization. He shows how the combination of the Web, software tools, and relatively low-priced devices like 3D printers and CNC machines are changing the shape of manufacturing. Anderson uses experiences such as his grandfather’s invention of improvements to lawn sprinkler equipment and his own personal DIY drones experience to explain the changes. He does most of this by looking at examples. Though little of the information in Anderson’s book was new to me, he does a good job of pulling it together. I came away from the book itching to try my hand at some sort of manufacturing business. I recommend this book to both those interested in participating as a maker or to those wanting to know about some important trends in the 21st Century. ( )
  wbc3 | Oct 3, 2013 |
Useful read alongside [b:Makers|6422238|Makers|Cory Doctorow|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347786469s/6422238.jpg|6611457] to counter exuberant future visions with an overview of what's actually possible right now (and soon). ( )
  amelish | Sep 12, 2013 |
Not a bad book and a nice quick read. As others have stated, it's a nice intro to do some of the "garage entrepreneurship" in the US.

There's some rough spots in the book, particularly towards the start. (The first couple of chapters feel pretty repetitive and a couple of comments get repeated frequently. This seems about par of the course for some books out in the past few years, particularly with a business focus. If you don't know that CNC is a subtractive technology by the end of the book, there's not much hope for you).

The author also has a tendency to paint a rosy picture of the possibilities. There may be lower barriers to entry, but they still exists. Future fortunes may often also need a great deal of luck, not just creativity.

The other issue is that as a book it manages to miss some of the big events in the Maker type community over the past year and half. (Off the top of my head, the print your own gun type of things, Makerbot including DRM and also interesting things like Ouya aren't covered).

For the amount of time it takes to read though, it's certainly worth taking a look if you have any interest. A decent book and a nice introduction to the world of niche manufacturing. ( )
  JonathanGorman | Jun 13, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307720950, Hardcover)

Wired magazine editor and bestselling author Chris Anderson takes you to the front lines of a new industrial revolution as today’s entrepreneurs, using open source design and 3-D printing, bring manufacturing to the desktop.  In an age of custom-fabricated, do-it-yourself product design and creation, the collective potential of a million garage tinkerers and enthusiasts is about to be unleashed, driving a resurgence of American manufacturing.  A generation of “Makers” using the Web’s innovation model will help drive the next big wave in the global economy, as the new technologies of digital design and rapid prototyping gives everyone the power to invent -- creating “the long tail of things”.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:48:52 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Wired" magazine editor and bestselling author Anderson takes readers to the front lines of a new industrial revolution as today's entrepreneurs, using open source design and 3-D printing, bring manufacturing to the desktop.

» see all 3 descriptions

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