A sourcing tool designed to help non-Mandarin speakers navigate the Hua Qiang electronics market.
Going to Shenzhen, China is a massive enabler for Makers, hackers, and entrepreneurs alike. The Essential Guide to Electronics in Shenzhen is the book I wish I had when I first stepped foot into China a decade ago.
I started visiting the Shenzhen electronic markets about 10 years ago. There, I learned about supply chains and how to mass-produce hardware. Over the years, I’ve blogged about my experiences in Shenzhen:‘MLTalk with Joi Ito, Nadya Peek and Me’ and ‘Products over Patents’, and given tours of the markets to parties ranging from graduate students at the MIT Media Lab, to VCs and executives. I’ve spent a lot of time on the ground in Shenzhen figuring out how to build my (often quirky) pet projects, ranging from my own version of a Shanzhai phone to a bespoke ARM-based laptop, to interactive conference badges that encourage participants to breed unique light patterns through virtual sexual reproduction.
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The Hua Qiang electronics market has been an enabling resource for me. However, overcoming the language barrier is one of the keys to unlocking the market’s full potential, and this book’s point-to-translate format enables a fluidity of interaction with market vendors that I’ve struggled to achieve with translation apps and eBooks.
The market is packed cheek to jowl with small stalls selling all sorts of components. Need 10,000 capacitors, stat?
Good news, the market is littered with stalls like this one:
The big boxes in the picture have around 150,000 capacitors in each, and a reel of 10,000 goes for the price of a footlong Subway sandwich. However, you realize you don’t know the Chinese word for “tempco” (temperature coefficient). Never fear, the Essential Guide is here!
Or, perhaps you are confronted with an embarrassment of choices, such as this vendor’s stall chocked full of connectors and switches:
The guide has pages dedicated to helping you sort through many types and sizes, and once you’ve finally found a sample that’s close to what you want, it has even more pages dedicated to specifying the finer details of the parts you need.
Pre-print sample showing table of contents of “The Essenial Guide to Electronics in Shenzhen. Note that the final version will feature stiffer, laminated index tabs.
Once you’re done with your purchase, the guide has pages that help with payment, shipping, and packaging.
The guide also includes notes on how to cross the border and get around, as well as tactically useful information on topics such as “is it fake?”.
The final section in the book contains maps. The first few pages call out spots that I’ve found useful or interesting, but my favorite part is the pages of blank maps interleaved with business card and receipt holders (note that the pre-print sample shown below doesn’t interleave the maps and holders, but final version will).
After a long day in the markets, I’ll come back to the hotel with a bag full of samples and a jumble of business cards and receipts, all written in Chinese. Sometimes it’s difficult to keep everything straight, especially when you’re comparison shopping among several vendors. It’s frustrating to lose a vendor’s contact information; all that work to shave thousands of dollars off of my cost of goods goes right down the drain if I can’t call the vendor back to place a volume order.
Pre-print sample showing pocket pages of “The Essential Guide to Electronics in Shenzhen. Note that the final version will feature stiffer, laminated index tabs.
Thus, this book isn’t made for just idle browsing; it’s a sourcing tool. It’s meant to be used and to be used up – scribbled in, pages torn out, samples kept inside. As you learn and explore the markets, the book helps you take notes and keep organized.
Armed with this book, I’m more efficient and more organized when I go component sourcing. I use my book like a journal: every time I go sourcing for a new project, I’ll bring out the book to track my progress and keep notes. Compared to the cost of plane tickets, hotel, and components, this book is well worth it to tie the whole experience together and make time on the ground more effective.
I hope that makers, entrepreneurs, and hackers everywhere will also find The Essential Guide to Electronics in Shenzhen an indispensable tool. Help me bring the guide to print by spreading the word and backing this campaign!
Thanks, and happy hacking!
The book’s manuscript is finalized, and it’s ready for print. The copy shown in the campaign video is a pre-print sample. The biggest risk to the book is a failure of the campaign to meet it’s minimum goal. The printer has a 1,000 copy minimum, and so the campaign’s goal of roughly 350 books still leaves me in the red, but it’s enough of a vote of confidence for me to go through with the whole run in the hopes that eventually I’ll sell most of the print run.
There’s always a risk that the printer makes a mistake in the print run – a rotated page, missed instructions on the assembly of special features such as tabs and card holders, quality problems with the cover’s foil debossing. Furthermore, on rare occasion, I’ve had delays in the raw paper stock arriving, but that usually incurs no more than a 2-3 week delay beyond the predicted schedule. However, I’ve printed thousands of copies of other books with this printer in the past and had few problems, so I’m optimistic that the run will go smoothly. I’m also going to get another proof copy before the full run happens, which will give me a chance to catch and fix any such problems.
There is also the small but inevitable risk of force majeure – the shipment of books getting lost due to a natural or man-made disaster.