The Do-It-Yourself Economy
The book: Makers: The New Industrial Revolution, by Chris Anderson; Crown Business
The big idea: "Do it yourself" used to mean assembling an Ikea bookcase. Now, thanks to open-source design, 3-D printers, and other machines, home-based manufacturers can produce products as diverse as toys and electronics.
The backstory: In his best-selling book The Long Tail, Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired, described the atomization of markets into ever-smaller niches. Makers explains how entrepreneurs can supply such markets, using itty-bitty production runs of supercustomized products.
Beyond crafts: Articles about the "maker movement" tend to emphasize the quirky charm of its practitioners. Anderson doesn't ignore that. But this is a book about a potentially disruptive economic force, not just how fun it is to shop on Etsy.
If you read nothing else: Chapter Nine argues persuasively for a manufacturing revival in which small companies absorb design ideas from enthusiast communities, squeeze out physical products using inexpensive services that cater to the small-batch crowd, and market their goods online.
Rigor rating: 7 (1=Who Moved My Cheese?; 10=Good to Great)
Makers is rich in anecdotes, but it chronicles a promising beginning rather than an established shift. And Anderson speaks like a true believer. Why wouldn't he be? 3D Robotics--his own manufacturing start-up--is on track to do $5 million this year.