Book Review: Makers By Chris Anderson

I took two flights across the country this week so in addition to a lot of catching up on email, I read a book. It is called Makers and it was written by Wired editor in chief Chris Anderson. This is the third book that I've read by Chris. The previous ones were The Long Tail and Free.

Chris writes books about the same things I blog about and USV invests in. We are certainly in sync in terms of the themes and memes that we are paying attention to.

Anyway, Makers is about "the new industrial revolution" that is brought about by personal manufacturing devices and web scale creation and innovation. It's about the intersection of companies like Etsy, Kickstarter, and Shapeways (all USV portfolio companies).

I suspect that there is nothing totally new to all of you in Chris' book. But he frames what is going on very well and I find these frameworks provided by folks like Chris and Steven Johnson and others to be incredibly helpful as we deal with a firehose of information and investments and try to find signal through the noise.

If you are interested in the revolution happening in personal manufacturing and are curious about what it means for innovation, startups, and even the economy and society, pick up a copy or put it on your Kindle. It's a quick read and a good read.


Comments (Archived):

  1. takingpitches

    I am excited by this movement so excited to read Chris’s book.New technologies that let artisans and entrepreneurs create physical products, personalized to express their creativity, at much cheaper cost also mean that customers will be able to imagine and expect more variety and personalized manufactured products.The synthesis of customer expectations that do not need to be compromised along with the artisan instinct to not have to compromise could spark a creative and entrepreneurial blossoming such as we have not seen.

    1. fredwilson

      yup, as i said the concept will not be new to this community. you are proof of it. you’ve described what is going on very well. but i think you’ll enjoy the book anyway. for you it will be a “head nodder”

      1. takingpitches

        A nation of tinkerers is important to aspire to and not just in software!I think we often understate the importance of keeping a base of manufacturing in this country.The logic that the outsourcing of manufacturing is not an issue — such as some of the stories around Apple this year — as long as high-value, innovative tasks remain in the country is overstated, if not wrong.There is a lesson in this from the innovation at the spine of Germany’s economy – the centuries’ old Mittelstand system or the small and medium-sized enterprises that account for 70% of its employment. At the core of keeping the innovation generated by the Mittelstand system, was keeping production capacity within Germany, as there is a manufacturing ecosystem that is disrupted by losing manufacturing capacity.There was a nice article in the FT about this a while ago.

      2. ShanaC

        head nodding doesn’t always make you think though. What books are changing the way you think about tech?

        1. fredwilson

          A Clockwork Orange

    2. testtest

      something like lockitron is off the hook — just awesomewhich is rightfully reflected in the nearly-two-million dollars it’s been funded forthe disintermediation of going directly to the consumer opens up a ton of opportunity

  2. ShanaC

    When it comes to books about craft, better to just experience the street. Here why I own a book about how to mix colors (it is on my to do list) and not a book on color theory.

    1. panterosa,

      Skim a little Donald Kaufman on making full spectrum white.

  3. gregorylent

    wonder if there is anything in here applicable to legislation and regulation ..

  4. awaldstein

    Airplane and beach books are important. I have some long flights coming up and will grab it.

  5. William Mougayar

    We can make our own beer and wine, so why not other things? It’s about time.Atoms meet bits, and you are the creator.But in the book he says “the world of atoms is at least five times larger than the world of bits.” I don’t have the full context, but I thought there is more information than physical things. I’m sure he’s right, but I just found that factoid surprising given the firehoses of information we keep creating.

    1. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Decoding Reality – Information is Physical.

    2. testtest

      the internet is the largest thing humans have ever made. try and get 2 billion people — or however many people are online — to fit on the great wall of china

      1. William Mougayar

        So are you saying virtual is bigger than physical?

        1. testtest

          for artifacts (being manmade), yes. and with “things” increasingly becoming “smart” that’ll increase by magnitudes (internet of things).there’s no more room for extra physical stuff. if i was going to make an argument for focusing on bits it would be that most physical goods will be replaced by virtually enabled goods. for example, we won’t have mechanical locks any more; they’ll be replaced in their entirety by products like lockitron that’s a large addressable market!

          1. William Mougayar

            That’s an interesting application of the Internet of Things. Are they on Kickstarter? But I see a fragmentation in the area of making the home smarter with your smartphone. You need different apps & devices from various companies for music control, security, temperature, cameras, etc…Maybe there’s an opportunity for some company to emerge as a consolidator or a single solution provider.

          2. testtest

            no — they “selfstarted”they put together a Rails app after it got turned down by kickstarterthey then open soured it

  6. Elie Seidman

    I’m doing a lot of flying these days. Have any other good recommendations?

    1. fredwilson

      what kind of books do you like to read?

      1. Elie Seidman

        Biographies. Phsychology (e.g. Thinking Fast and Slow). Analysis (e.g. Where good ideas come from).

        1. Rohan

          A couple of nice books from the past couple of months..Quiet by Susan Cain (nice book)Start with Why by Simon Sinek (top draw)The $100 start-up (just okay..)Talent is overrated by Geoff Colvin (Okay, this is very old but I hadn’t read it till 3 months ago)What every body is saying by Joe Navarro (light read..)Currently reading and really niceThe Honest Truth about Dishonesty by Dan ArielyCouple in queue and up next..The Power of Habit by Charles DuhiggHow we decide by Jonah Lehrer

          1. Elie Seidman

            thank you.

          2. testtest

            “The $100 start-up”i’m skeptical about books like this. firstly, anyone who whats to do anything in business should pick up some michael porter, or a book like understanding michael porter…and secondly, learn from sources that are updating and deeper. aaron wall at seobook is shrewd and covers topics which would help any bootstraper

          3. Rohan

            As I said, it’s an ‘okay’ book. Lots of interesting stories, examples etc.Luckily it’s not in the ‘4 hour work week’ category.. but again, not a bad read.I’m hearing good things about ‘So good they cannot ignore you’ by Cal Newport. Planning on reading that soon..

          4. testtest

            i’ve not read it, but wholeheartedly agree with the premiss.

          5. kidmercury

            +1 for aaron wall

          6. testtest

            glad you like him as well. he’s a powerhouse of a mind, imo

          1. Elie Seidman

            Have not. Thanks. Will take a look.

    2. jason wright

      a lead lined suit

  7. Brandon Burns

    i just met the team that’s 3d printing houses. yes, real-scale houses out of concrete-like material.blew. my. mind.http://www.themanwhoprintsh

    1. fredwilson


    2. testtest

      i’ve seen this. mid-way though the year i put most of my cash into a 3d printing company, so was following the industry.made around a 25% return in a short period of time, then took out the money after concluding the stock market is a con for retail investors — large informational disadvantages.

    3. Richard

      First job out of college was developing 3D printing techniques for semiconductors. Working in a clean room is intense!

    4. ShanaC

      wow. I mean wow.

    5. Prokofy

      I saw that and I have to say: making habitats isn’t merely about economies of efficiency, the first worlders helping the third worlders blah blah.When nomads on the steppe in Kazakhstan make a yurt, it’s a communal affair connected to nature and connected to each other. The making of it by hand from elements in the earth or from animal hides or even modern elements are all part of a process. They don’t need someone to print out their yurt. They would rather someone put in wireless and give them more mobile phones and laptops.

  8. testtest

    got an arduino kit sitting around. like my hobbies to be connected to some tangible benefit, so havent been inspired to get tinkering with it yet. hopeful something will come along to get me to say “yep, maker time”.more of an all digital dude at the moment

  9. Dave Pinsen

    Speaking of Kickstarter, it (and RocketHub) got a mention in this article in the (North Jersey) Record this week, “North Jersey artists, entrepreneurs ‘crowd-fund’ their dreams through Kickstarter and other sites”

    1. fredwilson

      can you send a link?

        1. fredwilson


  10. Elia Freedman

    While we are on the topic of flying, why is the government (FCC?) treating Kindle’s like other computers for take off and landing. It’s a pain to carry a digital book and still need something physical for take off and landing.

    1. fredwilson

      this is a huge problem that needs fixing

      1. Elia Freedman

        I read somewhere that the concerns are not with today’s technology interfering but some mythical future technology. Supposedly using eBooks, etc., is in review. I hope it changes soon.

    2. Rohan

      Shameless plug: Just blogged about it day before yesterday…

      1. testtest

        plug, but relavent

      2. Elia Freedman

        FAA, not FCC. I knew that sounded weird. So apparently the FAA is in review on allowing smartphones, tablets and eBook readers during take off and landing, at least if I remember an article I read a while ago correctly. The other thing I remember hearing is that they weren’t allowing these devices not because they interfered but that the FAA was concerned some new technology would come along that did. I don’t know why take off and landing is any different than any other time during a flight.

        1. Wavelengths

          Takeoff and landing are the times of highest risk for the plane. When it’s at higher altitude, a pilot has time to assess a problem and perhaps come up with a solution. When you’re a couple hundred feet from the ground the tiniest bobble can take you into the earth, especially in a jet that is not known for its glide ratio.

          1. Elia Freedman

            Understood. But then why do they let you sleep or read a physical book if you are supposed to be alert? And how is reading an eBook reader, in particular, any different then using a physical book? I can see why they’d say no headphones but the rest doesn’t make sense.

    3. ShanaC

      last I heard the whole wireless device thing on planes is being studied again.

  11. Carl Rahn Griffith

    The Long Tail was a seminal piece. A startup I did some work for in the 90s – Micromuse – was heavily into Java and I much admired Chris’ work for The Economist at the time – I took a punt and invited him to come and see us in glamorous Putney and to my surprise/delight he came over for a few hours. Cool guy, great mind. He’s a long way from Putney, now. Sounds like a good read, on my library shopping list.

  12. Mac

    Going off topic a little since it’s Saturday. I need some assistance from the A VC community. My avatar with Disqus was replaced with a photo of another member, who also has a Twitter profile. I’ve removed their photo but have been unable to upload my original photo from my PC. Contacting ‘Disqus Help’ through Twitter hasn’t worked either. I’ve been a regular commenter on A VC and would appreciate any suggestions.Thanks, Fred. Ordering Chris’ book. Mac

    1. Techman

      I think that Disqus said something about disabling the uploading of avatars, but that might only apply specifically to web sites and not the actual users. I guess you should contact Disqus Support though Also, this is the week end so your support request might not get answered until this upcoming Monday.

      1. testtest

        they should have support over the weekend. not sure if they do or not. for some verticals it’s the busiest time

        1. Techman

          They say on their support page that their support times are Monday-Friday. They also say that you might not get support on holidays. Only VIP customers get 24/7 support.

          1. testtest

            24/7/365 for paying customers makes sense

          2. Techman

            I wish they had an IRC channel. I’m sure some people would like to idle in that. I know some Disqus team members have their own personal private IRC channels, but Disqus as a company does not have one.

          3. Mac

            @MHazell:disqus IRC?

          4. Techman

            IRC stands for Internet Relay Chat. It is sort of like IM, but different. It is text based communication. At my website, I have my own IRC channel. You could look into that if you want to learn more about it, or use the Internet to learn more. Subject: [avc] Re: Book Review: Makers By Chris Anderson

          5. Mac

            @MHazell:disqus I recognize IRC now. Didn’t know what it was called. Used it at several sites. I appreciate the reference. Thanks again!

          6. Mac

            @MHazell:disqus Are you based in South Carolina?

          7. ShanaC

            how do I learn how to use IRC in a semi-secure manner?

          8. Techman

            Well, you’ll have to do a little bit of reading. First off, you have IRC networks, sort of like Yahoo Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, an AIM.IRC is mostly a pure text protocol, so it does not use a lot of bandwidth at all if you are on a capped connection. Wikipedia has a nice article on IRC, so you should look into that as well. I have an IRC channel for my site, Techman’s World, and you can demo and hang out in as you like. You can use an IRC client (read the Wiki article for more info on that), or you can use the web client on my website.

          9. ShanaC

            thanks. I will try it!

          10. testtest

            different layers for various depths of engagement is interesting. for example, there’s meta stack overflow for discussion about stack overflow, but there’s also a chat system for the moderators

          11. Prokofy

            Normal civilians should not be forced to go into the wild abusive and wonky environment of the IRC channel or even the inanity of Get Satisfaction. These companies should have normal complaint procedures on a web interface.

          12. Techman

            They do have professional web support. I was just suggesting an IRC Channel. Subject: [avc] Re: Book Review: Makers By Chris Anderson

          13. Mac

            @MHazell:disqus Thanks. Not sure I want VIP status. 🙂

        2. Mac

          @chrishuntis:disqus I’ll see if I can get their attention before MBA Mondays. Thanks for your input.

      2. Mac

        @MHazell:disqus Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll use your link and see what happens Monday. Didn’t see before.

      3. ShanaC

        Thank you michael. FYI, for future reference guys it is *@iMacPhail:disqus ) the email address is [email protected]: Mention the site in the re: field and you’ll probably get helped a little faster.

        1. Techman

          I wonder why :)Subject: [avc] Re: Book Review: Makers By Chris Anderson

        2. Mac

          Thanks, @ShanaC:disqus. My scroll bar really shrunk with this post. 🙂

  13. Techman

    It’s a quick read? 200+ pages is not a quick read, especially if you have almost no time on your hands. We should have another books post where I can recommend all of these computer fiction novels that I have read.

    1. jason wright

      an enduring reading list with its own home page tab?

  14. jason wright…Why would the kindle edition be more expensive than the hardcover? I don’t get that…at all.

    1. Techman

      Maybe Amazon wants to make money off of it?

      1. jason wright

        the hardcover price is at a loss?

        1. Techman

          Could be. I don’t know for sure though.

          1. jason wright

            I’m all for ebooks. The world needs trees.

    2. William Mougayar

      Good question. Supply & demand ?Does amazon sell more e-books than print books?

      1. jason wright

        I don’t know William. I’m sure that’s where Amazon wants to get to.Seems like the behavior of a drug dealer. Get people hooked on the kindle and then push the price of the consumable product up.A physical book has to be more expensive to produce than the ebook version.

    3. testtest

      cost-plus pricing sucks. products/services should be priced based on the value they the case of the kindle and books, they supply a greater amount of value for the customer by better meeting their, last i heard the kindle’s price was being subsidized by the sale of digital products.

      1. ShanaC

        how do you know what the value of information is (aka a book)? Cost plus works slightly more efficiently in that f***ed market.

        1. testtest

          in the case of ebooks, the price has already been roughly established via the price of “old” booksperhaps initially cost plus pricing was used. but, now it’s mostly information, it would mean virtually giving away popular booksthink about semiconductors, as well. faster chips use less material. should they be cheaper than slower chips? clearly notand right, it is difficult to put a value on information. but i will say this, there are situations where information about a good is more valuable than the good itself — you could trade on information about oil and make more than if you were selling the oil itself. so whilst it’s hard to value, some information is extremely valuable

          1. ShanaC

            I totally agree that information as a good is in many cases more valuable than the good itself. Information markets if anything are probably the most valuable thing about finance (when they work) (technically speaking, all markets are information markets because of revealed preference)

  15. andyidsinga

    I pre-ordered a copy ..loved how a week or so ago it magically appeared on my kindle :)Looking forward to reading it after I finish “The Wisdom of Crowds”

  16. Ron Williams

    Should also read Cory Doctorow’s fictional Makers to get a great view of how this tech can change the world. Charles Stross’ Rule 34 is likely even a better guess.

  17. Brad Lindenberg

    I don’t think we can begin to imagine what 3D printing is going to mean for our lives once it becomes main stream.It has the potential to do to the freight & logistics business what email did to the postal business.

    1. Vasudev Ram

      I’m a fan of 3D printing but one concern I have about it is that it may bring a lot more plastic into the world, making it worse for the planet.

      1. ShanaC

        You can 3d print in other materials, But other than that, I agree.

        1. Vasudev Ram

          Yes, I had read that it can be done using other materials like metal powders, for example, though didn’t mention it in my comment. Hope someone invents harmless biodegradable plastics soon, to reduce that impact, both for 3D printing and other uses.Inspired by nature.- | @vasudevram |

  18. panterosa,

    I will be interested to read this at some point when I have reading time. That’s a tough thing when you are a maker.I was at the Maker Faire few weeks ago. In the 3D printing tent with all the different machines from MakerBot, And several others, plus Shapeways. Arduino there as well. I am still annoyed there is no recycled material options – put in a clean pepsi bottle, get your thing made. Nor is the a polymer which degrades well, like corn or other. I am no expert in this chemistry, yet I have spoken to the Biomimicry Institute and they would love for 3D printing to arrive as these two abilities I mention. So I feel frustration that the 3D printing industry is not keen on being greener. They are rightfully excited to make desktop units, or ones that can make in ceramics.I am also frustrated at the 3D scanning abilities for those who which to make an object in another material and not use a program in CAD etc. Some of us still make things with our hands.

    1. ShanaC

      Actually, this would be a great direction for 3d printing to go into. If 3d printing is the democratization of manufacturing, recycling should also be a form of that democratization. It is interesting and in fact depressing that plastic science did not get very far in that regard.

      1. panterosa,

        Not just democratization of manufacturing, but taming of its carbon footprint of shipping, and warehousing. Production minimums also still create waste in the amount needed to print the run to begin with.One of the Biomimicry Institute team I was talking to is going to specialize further in materials development – for the very reason we cite of greener up and down cycling, as well as more advanced materials like hospital gowns based on shark denticles so bacteria can’t adhere to them.

  19. William Mougayar

    Totally related to this, I just watched this TEDx video about a machine that can automatically print/build a house in 20 hours.  The future of construction?

  20. Prokofy

    Well, you know what I think about all this, and Chris Andersen.Revolution — yes. Industry — no. Even using the term “engineers” is a bit laughable. They never actually touch things or get their hands dirty. They are mindcasters. And we have to worry when they cross the Rubicon of digital to real, and especially the blood/brain barrier, given how unethical hackers are.Now, doesn’t 3D printing change all this? I saw my first 3D printer at a Second Life meet-up about 7 years ago, actually, in some garage over on the West side. They printed out an avatar. Now, what would I want with a 3D styrofoam edition of my avatar? Um, I wouldn’t.Since then, I’ve seen various other iterations of this idea at TechCrunch Disrupt. They have gotten cheaper and better. But the plastic results look for all the world like the plastic toy soldiers we used to buy at Woolworth’s in bags for 99 cents — gosh, 50 years ago. When there was a Woolworths. And toy soldiers weren’t politically incorrect. That is, with rough edges, indistinct features, and tags on them.So, what was the use case? Guns! And before you know it, they will dump chemicals in like toner, and make drugs. Or space food.This is not going to be progress.

  21. Andy K.

    Only about an hour into listening to the audiobook version. Loved Chris Anderson’s comment about barriers to entry….that in the digital age, the barriers to entry are “ankle high.”

  22. fpthomas

    Fred –Enjoyed your post as usual. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on The intersection of making and anotherfrequent topic on your blog: education.To me, combiningmaking and education creates hooks to make learning fun. Make a rocket and all of a sudden trigonometryis interesting because you want to see how high it goes. Make an electric motorfrom scratch and electricity gets interesting. Make cardboard automata and you can understandhow gears work and then transmissions. Make an underwater ROV and biology isn’t sodry. In addition to just the topics, solving theproblems in making anything teaches persistence, resiliency and creativity.Perhaps the biggest benefit is that kids see the worlddifferently when they know they can make something to solve a problem. Carry itout far enough and you can see the seeds of entrepreneurship being planted.Whatever we do in education 2.0, we have to find a way to incorporate makingthings.Parker

    1. fredwilson

      i think making things is huge in education

  23. fredwilson

    in addition to writing books and editing wired, chris has an arduino company called 3D Robotics

  24. William Mougayar

    …and he has 5 young children!

  25. John Revay

    Today’s word of the day – Arduino…