Back in 1982, a business book called Megatrends by John Naisbitt made a big splash. The most memorable phrase in this study of future trends was “high tech, high touch”, describing a product style or marketing approach that combines technical wizardry with heightened emotional appeal. The idea was that the cold touch of technology innovation can be balanced by a compensating increase in interpersonal intimacy and connectivity. This was some pretty nifty trend-spotting, because the year was 1982 and Naisbitt had just described the birth of the popular internet, still over a decade in the future.
I was thinking about “high tech, high touch” recently when I spent a weekend with my brother and our kids gathered around an amazing new gadget called Wii Fit. You know I’m no gadget-head, and I generally hate video games, but Wii Fit impressed the hell out of me. Perhaps the most appealing thing about it, as with many Wii games, is the deep integration of detailed personal avatars that are designed to realistically look like each player. With my brother and all the kids around, we were able to turn Wii Fit into not only a personal exercise/physical challenge game but a group exercise/physical challenge game, all of it taking place on a television in real time. Or was it taking place in the room? Or both?
That type of integration, as Mr. Naisbitt would now remind you, is called “high tech, high touch”.
2. I was also recently thinking about “high tech, high touch” because a surprising number of LitKicks loudmouths commenters disagreed with me on a recent post about electronic books. I wrote that most readers would rather read books on high-end versions of the electronic devices they already carry (iPhones, Blackberrys, video players) than blow three or four hundred bucks on a Sony Reader or an Amazon Kindle. It seems that I’m alone in this opinion.
Well, this may shock you all, but I insist that I’m correct. For one thing, I notice that none of these enthusiasts actually own a Kindle or a Sony Reader. That says a lot about how the business is growing. All talk, no sales. Do you own a Kindle?
Electronic books will be a success. This is an absolute certainty. That doesn’t mean E-books will replace or crowd out physical books, which will hopefully continue to exist forever. But there’s a simple reason why I want to read a book on my phone. Because there’s a phone in my pocket and I want to read a book. Make it easy for me. And if it’s a good book, I’ll forget about the fact that I’m reading it on my phone very quickly, because I will hopefully be engaged in the plot. That’s what reading is about.
Those who wish to build businesses around E-books must remember to keep the barrier to customer entry low. I’ve written this before on similar business issues, and the same logic applies to electronic books. Readers will embrace the new format once it’s made easily accessible and affordable to them. Why wouldn’t they? It’s a no-brainer, really.
Gimmicky E-book products like this one, which lets you simulate the “page turning experience” with an E-book reader, are absolutely laughable. This is the E-book equivalent of spray can leather scent for new cars. Maybe it will make a few odd people happy, but it has nothing to do with the future.
What else can E-book promoters do to get more traction with readers? Simple: high tech, high touch.
3. Tim W. Brown replies to an 18-month rejection slip: “When you say that my work doesn’t “suit our needs at this time,” does that mean in 2006 or 2008?”
5. Yeah, I’m still unpacked, I’m still a little crazed and I’m still very happy. Thanks for the nice wishes on the upcoming wedding, everybody … one more short post tomorrow and then I’m closing up this lollipop stand for a couple of weeks. We’ll be back in mid-July. Action poets, get your poems in quick …