Book Review by Chris Wendel
“They’re not coming back. Traditional consumers aren’t coming back. Print advertising isn’t coming back. Media, brands, and the established narrative aren’t coming back. And almost everyone will make this transition.” Nick Bilton, from the book: “I live in the future & here’s how it works”
304 Pages, Hardcover, Published 2010
The pressure of having a great book title can sometimes be hard to live up to, and for its first few chapters “I live in the future & here’s how it works” isn’t quite up to the task. However, by persevering to the end it is accurate to say that the book’s readers will be ultimately rewarded, especially for those seeking the instant gratification promised by its persuasive title.
That same instant consumer gratification may foretell why anyone involved in small business today feels pressured today to keep up with digital technology, from both a competitive and user’s perspective. Author and “New York Times” writer Nick Bilton has witnessed the impact of this digital innovation first-hand his own newspaper’s fight for survival.
The guts of “I live in the future & here’s how it works” describe how the rapidly changing media world is affecting human behavior. For example, the porn industry demonstrates one of the most innovative approaches to retaining customers and building market share; surgeons hone their skills with video games; and communities evolve around groups of people who have never met face-to-face.
While a traditional part of society resists new technology, those who embrace the changes in media and consumer behavior will move exponentially ahead with their personal and business development. Bilton spends plenty of time exploring pressing questions of the tech naysayers, including:
- Can humans adapt to the information overload that comes with new forms of technology?
- Are methods of communicating such as email, text, Facebook, Twitter, and blogging compromising our ability to effectively read and write?
- Are traditional forms of marketing, branding, and advertising facing extinction?
Those who fear that texting, blogging, Google, Twitter and Facebook are dummying us down may be surprised by the evidence that Bilton presents. More importantly, the book gives strong indicators of how we need to be positioned for the inevitable changes in the way we communicate, market, and do business.
In the past most technology changes were controlled more by corporations and governments, but this time around, the internet presents a more decentralized model where “a tweet sent by a student in Iran can reach the same number of people as the “New York Times””, a short YouTube video can create an instant mega-star (can you say Justin Bieber?), and a small one person company can act and be perceived in the marketplace to be a larger corporation.
For Bilton, regardless of the technology, the one constant that remains is the value of good storytelling. Identifying and conveying remarkable wisdom will be the one entity that persists, be it in the form of a traditional printed book, a blog entry, or a mobile phone application.
One trend of note is the advent of what Bilton terms “Me Economics”, that describes how consumers cater their media and resulting products and services to very specific individual preferences. Another is place-driven GPS marketing that combines with the personal user profile so consumers can make buying decisions based on real time updates.
Bilton uses a great tool with QR Codes (two-dimensional barcode accessed by a mobile phone scan application) at the beginning of each chapter to provide corrections, additional content, comments, and video updates to keep readers engaged well after the book is read.
“I live in the future & here’s how it works” takes it all on in what ends up being a thoroughly researched and entertaining book. Bilton’s early attention to detail sets the stage for what readers are seeking in the first place, a compelling manifesto at the book’s end describing what we all have to look forward. So, according to “I live in the future & here’s how it works”, what’s the “next big thing”? Let’s just say that the evolution of e-readers will create yet another change that will successfully adapt to.