Apparently, the biggest sellers on Amazon’s US site this Christmas were a turntable and film for an instant camera.
Why? The Verge’s Jacob Kastrenakes has a theory:
Is it weird that cheap analog products beat out modern alternatives? Kind of. But as someone who ordered a physical book and a pack of film just yesterday, none of this seems too hard to explain away. Jensen’s turntable is a low-cost way to get someone started with vinyl, which is growing in popularity right now very much because of its analog and anachronistic qualities; plus, with built-in speakers, there’s no need for a full stereo setup alongside it, either. And while I’m surprised to hear that Fuji’s Instax Mini line has such a following, it’s worth remembering that these products have a lot less competition than any individual digital camera or home speaker — since there are fewer products to pick between, the ones that do exist are going to capture more sales.
If you want to get into something, it’s always helpful if the cost of entry is low, so the risk is low. Tom Kelley, in The Art Of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, talks about another aspect which is ease of entry. He noticed that fishing was overly complicated for kids to get in to but, more importantly, their parents hadn’t fished as kids and so didn’t know how to teach their own children. So he designed a one-piece fishing rod that meant kids could quickly try it out and, if they liked it, get more involved in it.
Vinyl seems easy enough – buy a record, put it on the record player. But like those non-fishing parents, if you’ve not got a record player in the house, you need to buy one and then you’re into a different territory. As the Not The Nine O’Clock News sketch above makes painfully clear. Same with photography. No one wants to look like an idiot, so make it easy. The fact we all have cameras on us now hasn’t dampened the interest in photography, but increased it. So if camera shops want to capitalise on that, make it less baffling to take the next step.