Instant: The Story of Polaroid



Written by New York magazine editor Christopher Bonanos:

Land did no market research. He once said that marketing is what you do if your product is no good. Instead, what he believed was this: you had to show people something they had no idea they wanted, but that was irresistible. To that end, what he would do was turn Polaroid’s annual meeting into sort of a show. He would get up on stage, he would show the new camera, he would demonstrate whatever the new product was, and by the end of the meeting you completely had to have one. You were drawn into Polaroidland.

Polaroid founder Edwin Land was one of Steve Jobs’ heros. I look forward to reading Instant (iTunes affiliate link).

Update 2012.09.14:

Lay your hands on Instant for the first time and you’ll feel something you seldom feel: that feeling there’s something much more valuable. Flip through the first few pages and you’ll realize each page is made of thick, high quality paper, and adorned with a font that is delightfully easy to read. Instant is brimming with illustrations, black and white, and full color reproductions of works by Ansel Adams, Andy Worhol, and many others. This is why physical books matter. The ink smells, and the turning of thick, high-quality paper is immensely satisfying. Reading a book should be more than merely absorbing information; it should be a full sensory experience. And Instant is exactly that.

Instant is a carefully constructed historical narrative about Polaroid and its brilliant, charismatic leader Edwin Land. The inner workings of Polaroid is beautifully told throughout the rise, catastrophic collapse, and resurrection of the coolest technology company on earth in the 1960s and 1970s. Land started Polaroid in a garage in 1937, ten years later instant photography was born, and the company became a multi-billion dollar pop culture phenomenon. Instant is both inspiring and cautionary, and an eminently readable business, technology, fine arts, and pop culture story rolled up into one. Highly recommended.