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August 17th, 2010

Books, music, movies, digital, physical

I’ve been starting to get a bit weary of reading articles about how ebooks are going to kill books like mp3s have killed CDs and streaming options are killing DVDs. So what do I do? I throw together a piece on the very same topic, adding to the mess.

Even though I’ve long been a collector of all sorts of physical media, I do welcome a lot of the changes that have come about. These days, the majority of my purchases and consumption of music come in digital form. They don’t take up physical space and 320k is plenty high-enough quality for most of the music I listen to. That said, I will still buy the occasional physical item that’s for a very special album or is a truly unique piece. Like a re-released piece of vinyl by a long-forgotten jazz artist. I bought a $25 copy of the vinyl that was one of only a hundred with hand-drawn art by the lead musician and came with a digital download card. It’s a frameworthy piece, a great album, and it helps pay a talented musician who probably didn’t make enough money on his work the first time around.

In terms of movies, I buy almost no movies anymore. It’s partially due to the fact that between Netflix and the public library, I’m able to get 90% of the movies I want to see, but realize I probably won’t watch again anytime soon. It’s also partially due to frustration with the idea of replacing a DVD collection with the superior Blu-Ray format. I suspect that over the next five years, I’ll buy a few dozen Blu-Rays (once I, um, get an HDTV and a Blu-Ray player) of very select favorite movies that are available in special editions. But otherwise I’ll be satisfied with rentals and streaming choices.

Lastly: books. ebooks have been on the horizon for almost two decades now — I was a part of an “online publishing” group on GEnie back in the early 90s that included ebook publishers. But it wasn’t until the Kindle and similar devices that these things really started to take hold.

Let me put it like this: I really, really love the idea of a good ebook reader. Traveling with a huge selection of reading material in the size of a single large paperback? Freaking awesome. Being able to search through dozens of cookbooks for a particular recipe or ingredient? Killer. But the DRM restrictions that keep an ebook from being as functional as a physical book? Phooey. Plus, books suffer more than any other medium when you take away the design elements you get with a physical version. While I like the trend towards more minimal living over the last few years, I think there is value to physical media serving as a discussion point or functional decoration or statement of one’s personality in one’s living quarters. Personally, I don’t trust someone who doesn’t have books on display in their house.

In summary, my middle-of-the-road conclusion is this: yay for digital media! It’s changing a lot of things and that’s pretty exciting. But there’s still room for physical version of media, particularly for “special” items that we can appreciate as a collectible or statement of our personality and interests.

Posted in Television, Movies, and Music

Cat August 18, 2010, 10:37 am

My archival library is shrinking every time I go through it, and I haven’t bought a physical book for myself in a while. Honestly, it’s nice to be free of the paper.

With a limited amount of room, I guess I choose art as my “collectible or statement of our personality and interests”. When you walk into our tiny apt, it is pottery, paintings, and antique bento boxes that fill the visual space.

The office is still stuffed with books–Bill’s poetry, my horror. There are some books, like my Tufte set, that would be awfully hard to part with. But for the most part, books, to me, are media to be consumed, like music and movies, and an electronic format is ideal, despite irritating DRM issues.

I’ll be interested to see your take on this in, say, five years.

Ryan August 18, 2015, 2:50 pm

Cat — It’s five years later and, really, I feel pretty much the same way. I’m purchasing way less physical media (the occasional book or record) and consuming primarily in digital form.

I love digital for travel and will still get out the ebook version of a book from the library even if I already have the hardcopy version.

I don’t BUY many ebooks, though, because of the DRM issue (I don’t trust the DRMed ebooks to be around in 15 years).

Cat August 18, 2015, 3:00 pm

It’s funny, we now have a much bigger space, so the first thing you notice when you come in the house is the reading nook, lined with mismatched shelves, piled with books. Still a fraction of the books we had five years ago, though I did have to buy an additional small shelf recently. Bill still gets a few things in paper, and art books still don’t work for me digitally.

I caught up with you on movies, and haven’t bought a physical copy in years. Music is the same, though I sometimes miss liner notes with ACCURATE lyrics. Goddammit, he’s saying “grapes,” not “graves.” I love having the space this stuff used to take up.

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