Here’s an interesting experiment for you. At your next meeting, see how many people sitting around the table are using laptops, smartphones, tablets and phablets to take notes – and how many are jotting them down with a pen in a Moleskine notebook. If author and journalist David Sax is right, you’re going to see the numbers of pen-and-notebook users increasing in the future as people combine their state-of-the-art digital devices with a return to trusty, if old-fashioned, analog.
“Moleskine notebooks are now the analog working accessory of the digital age,” says Sax. “Go to a coffee shop in London, Berlin, Paris or Tokyo and you’ll find someone sitting there with their latte, laptop – and Moleskine journal.”
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The obituary was written for analog products from the early 2000s when sales of personal computers, then laptops, then smartphones and tablets increased and the dream of a paperless office came nearer. In 2014, music downloads overtook CD sales, just as CDs had once overtaken vinyl. Struggling brick-and-mortar record stores closed in cities across the world while the rise of e-books, Amazon and other online retailers sounded the death knell for many physical bookstores. As the popularity of video and console games grew, sales of board games also took a dive; and with the proliferation of handily downloadable digital media, magazine subscribers went online to read their favorite titles, leaving the print versions unloved and on the shelf. The fallout meant the end for some publications, while others ploughed all their resources online and reinvented themselves as ‘e-zines’. Newsweek, for instance, closed its 80-year-old print title in 2012 and became an internet-only product. Analog, plainly, had had its day.
But then a few years ago, a strange thing happened. People began rediscovering analog products all over again.
Look at the incredible revival of vinyl records, for example. In the U.S. in 2015, vinyl sales increased by 32 percent to $416 million, their highest level for 27 years. In the U.K. in 2016, 3.2 million records were sold – a rise of 53 percent on the previous year. According to a report from Deloitte, this turntable trend isn’t set to go backwards any time soon. In fact, it estimates that, this year, annual sales of vinyl records will pass the $1 billion mark for the first time since the 1980s. There’s also been a rise in board games purchases, up 28 percent in the U.S. in 2016, and Moleskine’s sales were up from $58 million in 2010 to $139.5 million in 2015.
And print magazines? Many of them are back too, with Newsweek relaunching its print edition in 2014 and around a thousand new magazine titles being launched in the U.S. alone each year. In addition, bespoke custom print has thrived. Take Monocle, the on-trend current affairs, lifestyle and design magazine – launched in 2007, it has seen its sales grow each year. Today Monocle sells 81,000 copies per issue, with 18,000 subscribers.
Another astounding trend in this age of ubiquitous social media snaps and selfies is the growth of film photography. After selling one million of its Instax cameras in 2002, Fujifilm saw sales plummet to 100,000 by 2004 as camera phones became ever more sophisticated. Yet, last year, it was reported that Instax film cameras are outperforming Fujifilm’s digital models, and that in 2017 the company estimates it will sell 6.5 million units.