Why Physical Media Is Archaic

Most people consume media in a disposable method, despite the fact they want to own it.

Interesting conversation on Twitter this weekend with my new friend HarryAllen, as I’m discussing how I consume my media, in this particular case I’m watching the final season of Battlestar Galactica, season 4.  Some in Twitter say they’d prefer to buy the DVD set, where I prefer to have it on demand, and not own or have to manage any plastic.  

A few reasons why I think owning physical media (DVDs, CDs) is antiquated:  

  • 1) I’m impatient, I want it, when I want it.  
  • 2) Owning media takes up space 
  • 3) It reminds me of the 80s and 90s when my friends would buy shelves and shelves of VHS tapes –DVDs will be antiquated, as new formats are already coming around beyond Blu-Ray.  
  • 4) Owning media is a liability: It depreciates over time, can be a challenge and a headache to sell 
  • 5) It’s bad for the environment: If there’s anything the world needs less of it’s forged plastic disks and equally bad for the environment containers. 

Friends and family of mine like to own media libraries, but I question exactly how many times they watch it after buying it.  Perhaps it’s a Western mentality, the desire to ‘own’ and have collections of content.  

So what’s the future?  I prefer to buy via iTunes, or Amazon music (DRM free), or stream the shows live from the web, even Netflix offers on demand via the web –you don’t have to open the mailbox.  Once I buy it, I can always download it again in the future, and at some point, most media becomes free in order to give it a second life.

This isn’t just about TV or movies, but applies to my CD collection too –I will never willingfuly buy a CD again if I can get it on demand.  Could this apply to books with the new Amazon Kindle?  Maybe, yet I think it’s one of the few types of media that will still retain it’s original form –sometimes it’s nice to unplug.

Take my kid sister, who’s visiting at my house for our Mother’s day dinner, she streams content online, downloads it from the internet, and has an iPod.  I think looking at Generation Y is a clue to what is to come, media will represent the culture it’s providing for:  portable, mobile, interconnected, interactive and on-demand.

To me, owning physical is the old way, the new way is relying on the network.  

Would love to hear what you think.

74 Replies to “Why Physical Media Is Archaic”

  1. I found point #2 interesting “it takes up space”…digital media does as well. But we don’t look at storage like we used to…the days of a 64kb computer. The concept of “storage” has become irrelevant, for someone else will store it.

    I like your points, but some media, such as books, I think we will keep for a while yet, because it is the “experience” it provides.

  2. I used to collect DVDs on my shelf, too. One day I realised that they only attract dust. People like physical objects despite their content is non-physical. This will change soon. The same way I started to collect data on my external hardrives instead objects on my shelves.

  3. Webcomomist

    Digital storage takes up very little space, esp if it’s in within existing laptops, set top boxes, or even in the cloud.

    In the true on demand model, digital storage isn’t even needed, it’s just streamed to you as you need it –with an option to put on a rich client.

    We’re certainly not that advanced as the wireless ‘pipe’ isn’t ubiquitous nor fat enough to stream all content on demand…yet.

  4. Dawid

    Isn’t the real issue a mindset? That’s my point. People (I think it’s westerners) prefer to own things, houses, cars, properties, and media.

  5. I walked through an analog ghost town today in a mall – a music store….no one there but staff. I was with my dad….we talked about Apple’s monetization of digital music sales:

    1,000,000 songs sold – Industry yawned
    100,000,000 songs sold – Industry yawned
    1,000,000,000 songs sold – Industry found it vaguely interesting
    Five billion sold – it’s getting serious now – http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2008/06/19itunes.html

  6. John

    Good point, Apple nearly single handedly disrupted the music and media business. They need to move quickly however, as the rest of the industry catches up, I’m finding cheaper alternatives (and are DRM fre) in exchange for iTunes.

  7. I agree. I have moved a few times and now my music, work, personal/financial info, everything is becoming part of the digital realm. I prefer to use web apps and another server when possible. Netflix, iTunes… I am going thru old CDs and uploading and discarding the physical. Perhaps in time we will improve our physical consumer economy, just a bit.

  8. Not only westerners;) People from all cultures like to keep things. I understand the reason of keeping clothes, cars – things thay cannot be stored on a hard drive or in a cloud. But what is the reason of keeping digital data in boxes? I believe it was just an episode. It will all be on demand one day. Wherever you are, whenever you need it.

  9. It is definitely a mindset issue. I think owning a physical object gives one a sense of security, that once it is theirs it can’t be taken away. So I’m curious – do you still print out your photos and put them in photo albums or do you view them on your computer only?

  10. Unless you purchase mainstream media only, you must own half of what you do because it is not available anywhere else. Aside from scarcity, I would want to own media because I appreciate the extras… I actually use them. Hearing the Director et. al. discuss the movie is fascinating. I am ok without packaging in general, but it does a person good when you are exploring more than “just watching” the movie.

    I think the environment argument is thin in that this is not 1985 when we had the rediculous amount of CD packaging simply being tossed. People protested and it was stopped!

    Younger people will use less because they do not know anything else. Not because they made a choice and decided it was better to get it online.

  11. I don’t see any cache in owning CDs or DVDs.
    Folks who still collect physical media are stuck with shelves of unattractive cases and covers to manage. I much prefer having digital music. No need to ever dust the cases, put things back in order, etc. It’s one invention that’s helped get rid of some of the clutter that invades our lives as consumers.

    My choice to purchase digital music online is an intentional choice – more convenient, immediate gratification, and no need to find a place to put it. It fits quite nicely in my laptop & iPod.

  12. I agree. Physical media is the way of the. past. It can not pass away fast enough for me. The energy and materials consumed in fabrication and distribution along with the disposal of packaging are enough to convince me. The topper is that my content available wherever I am.
    I am afraid that many people will resist this change.

  13. For personal users and some business use this is for sure the way to do. Physical will likely always have some place (i.e. backups, high security, legal), but doing things online is for sure the way to go!!

    Jeremiah, how do you think this applies to industries where physical media is needed still?


  14. “To me, owning physical is the old way, the new way is relying on the network”

    Working in historical maps – 1600 up to 1900 – One can appreciate how effective the preservation of the “old way” is. Hopefully the network will be there, available to us all when we need it, right? Then again, Battlestar Galactica is something very important for humanity 😉

  15. Owning physical objects without really owning them (use of content subject to license is not what I would call ownership) does not really make sense to me.

    I remember asking some people in mid 90s after reading the writing on CDs (do not lend) whether I could get a replacement copy of CD media should my CD get damaged. At the time they thought I was asking a silly question, but my opinion is that if all I own is a license to use content, then the media is just a delivery mechanism to allow me to enjoy that content more conveniently. As long as I have proof of purchase, I should be able to replace the media without having to replace the license.

    Fast-forwarding to today’s video media (there’s a term that’s soon to become obsolete…), we have the same issue. When I pay for physical media, what I really paid for is the license to view it and the disk acts as a copyright protection dongle and convenience media. MPAA this time is actively enforcing their licenses.

    To make this long story shorter, I think we are headed in the direction of today’s enterprise volume license management. You will soon explicitly buy a license to listen to or view specific content, and that license will enable you to enjoy the content in multiple formats.

    Physical media is already largely in the past – except for most popular releases, we can only buy some movies and music online already.

    iTuned is a form of such license management. If I bought something on iTunes, I can re-download it in the event of a loss. That is superior to the current physical media model. Though software enforcement of DRM is going away, the legal structure of content licensing remains.

    Copyright holders will probably have a convenience fee-based feature to convert media, but as computers get ever more powerful and expansive in terms of storage, that option will be rarely used.

    In summary, I expect to be able to buy a license to FLAC content and to be legally free to transcode it to lossy format. We currently are not yet there, but I think that’s the direction in which we are headed. Once Apple enables lossless downloads, that will be the final nail in CD’s coffin. At that point, the quality argument no longer applies.

  16. I agree with you that the world is getting there — but I think that we are not there yet. As you correctly point out, we are at a stage where most things (music, movies, info etc.) have morphed to the on-demand model. However, until folks completely ‘trust’ the reliability, availability, and convenience of the digital media/net we are always going to have a market for the physical media — either to store ‘favorites’, or for critical stuff at work/home, or the medical field where legalaties mandate storage for a certain time.

  17. absolutely – though I expect that the “transition” will take quite a bit longer than you think – not just because of mindset/”old habits die hard” but because the missing pieces and “minor” drawbacks of the interim/transitional solutions aren’t minor, at least relative to mass adoption. They will get solved, I agree, but until they do the masses won’t change, and until the “masses” change, the media industry will resist it IMO.

  18. You missed one type of media that is so often overlooked because of its antiquity and its robustness.


    However I think a more subtle point about ownership is overlooked thanks to people being hung up on the guilt aspects of ownership.

    Ownership and display of property provides a mechanism by which the owner can define their interests and social commitments to other members. Its a way of saying “hey I think this stuff is cool”. in turn it helps others define if they want to make a commitment to a social relationship with you. Are we going to get along? do we share the same interests ? do we have the same goals ?

    Media might be archaic but digital doesnt answer the question. How will you know if you’ll like me ?

  19. I don’t agree totally with the statement, I found out this weekend. I had two birthday-parties to go to. One from a dear friend of mine, working as an accountmanager for a large infrastructure-software company, the other was my dad’s. I was thinking what to buy them as I walked past the CD-store in our city. This was not your average large chain of stores, but a small independent store who also sells vinyl (viva la vinyl!). I haven’t been there for 6-8 months so I decided to check them out. I wandered in the store for about 40-45 minutes, deciding what to buy for them, listening to various CD’s, talking with the storeclerks about genres, listening to other conversations in the store. As I was there, I thought to myself: “I can do this online as well”, why be here?” The answer was simple. It just feels better. More human. Especially when you are looking for a gift. The feeling of the CD-cases (Yeah that sounds strange), looking and admiring the special releases of landmark records from way way back. Checking out the popular lists from the store owner. The store was crowded! Yeah, we were a sort of social niche network at that moment. We gathered among our favorite theme (records, music) and we had small but meaningfull conversations.

    The other thing is, I like to give presents. And those presents should be more than a leaflet with a code to download songs fom iTunes. I bought a CD from Kings of Leon for my friend (I know she’s a fan) but also bought an EP from a starting dutch band, which I know she will like (It’s Drive like Maria, great band!). For my father, who is a bluesfan, diggs his iPod but will leave me his extensive vinyl collection, I bought a great collection of Jeff Healy songs. A DVD and two CD’s. Sure, he will rip it and put it on his iPod and mediacenter but the emotional feeling of him getting the gift, unwrapping and seeing the smile on his face when he holds the case, no streaming service can top that.

    So don’t get me wrong, I do believe we enter a streaming world. My daughter is almost 3 and she knows her way on Nickelodeon.com and other streaming cartoonsites. But I will definitely educate her in the world of vinyl and CD, so she knows the heritage and how we got where we are.
    Jeremiah, let’s extend the conversation this week in Amsterdam! Looking forward to meet you!

  20. There is in fact a disturbing development to see norwegian kids consume more and more “stuff” each year, and actually wanting the technological divices instead.

    Norway is rich. Even poor families can afford “stuff” for their kids. And families drown in cheap toys, dvd’s, chlothes etc.

    When we can afford quality devices that gives us a cheap access to movies, books and alle the latest music, -Why don’t we buy it?

    Our parent generation were brought up learning to take good care of everything, and re-use of possible. But our stores are filled with cheap trendy stuff, and the majority buy what they want, whenever they want.
    We are thaught not to spend to much money, and that exencive stuff are “show-off”. Many are still anti-american in our society. Blaming americans for the decades of consumer trends.

    But guess what? WE ARE THE RICH ONES! We are unwise spenders.

    There is probably no other country on earth where there is such a majority of inhabitants able to pick and choose like they want to. No country with equal rights for emloyees, possibilities for kids, and freedom of choice to do and be whatever we want. We CAN afford to be both trendy and environmently friendly. There should be less spending on cheap garbage. Buy less stuff, but quality stuff. These are the lessons to be thought.

    But we still cant buy it all. Because, we are certainly rich, but the products aren’t here for us. We have iTunes, but can’t buy a movie there. Or download the latest episode of whatever we watch on TV. So we are still stuck to buying the physical “stuff” or copy illigeal like every kid at our daughters schools are doing.

    There is some will, still not a lot. But if there is a choice, and some start, there will certainly be a movement here as well.

    I don’t own a TV. But I look forward to the day I can buy and watch my favorites from iTunes and watch it on my imac. Still I can’t.

    Get the possibilities out there. The kids will change the trends, -like they always have. Just make it possible.

  21. I agree with the sentiment but I just don’t think we’re at a place where we can do away with all physical media just yet – and we’re certainly not at a place where we can replace downloads with streaming.

    For one thing I can’t yet stream live web content while I’m on an airplane. “Ubiquitous” WiFi just isn’t a reality quite yet and in many places where I can get a signal the level of bandwidth is fine for e-mail but hardly suitable for multimedia. In many parts of the world bandwidth is still expensive.

    I wholeheartedly support the iPod model (own several myself) of buying media online and downloading it to a digital device, but I also recognize that we’re not quite ready to make that the only way to do it. Perhaps by the time my (as yet unborn) kids are old enough to have a favorite musical group we’ll be there. But not quite yet.

  22. I like the idea of being able to buy and then share the DVDs, pass them on or exchange them with friends. One can’t do that with on-demand stuff unless one copies it onto a sharable media – which then brings in copyright infringement issues. But I do wonder how ‘green’ either option is as lots of energy is needed for each to work.

  23. I’m with you on this one.

    I’d prefer to leave my content somewhere in the “cloud”.

    And I’m also about 1/3 of the way through BSG season 4 that I’d downloading from iTunes. Why can’t it be intelligent enough to know that I only want the HD version? It insists that I download both the HD & normal version…

  24. A little late to the party, but … maybe you want to read Nick Carr’s take: http://www.roughtype.com/archives/2009/04/clutter.php

    The essential point is that the medium shapes the both message and how we think about and around it. And that’s why, were the book to be digitized, it would no longer be the book, but something else. Probably shorter, probably more superficial. Something with a lot short attetion span. Something like a blog?

    Now what was I saying?

  25. Jeremiah,

    Thanks for an article, which is my thought and reasoning through and through. I stopped buying cassettes decades ago and my wise decision has been re-enforced with the advent of the Internet, MP3, MPEG¦ and whatever the future of medium holds. I am a streaming media fan with the likes of HULU and SIRIUS (and waiting for the industry to grow) because even burning, downloading and organizing media content is too time-consuming and you never know when the format you choose becomes obsolete.


  26. Personally, I prefer physical media to intangible downloads. But then I read newspapers and I was a record collector…I appreciate the packaging & design along with the content. A computer file just seems functional and not artistic. I want something I can hold in my hands.

    As far as environmental concerns, maybe the solution is not to eliminate physical media but to recycle it and reduce consumption. I mean, do people really need hundreds or thousands of DVDs?

  27. Two types of media that are enhancements in their present form are books and newspapers. Yes newspapers. For a long time the paper’s been devalued. While an industry was trying to figure out how to boost ad dollars, they should have been changing their business model to position newspapers like the NYT as seriously undervalued commodity. A paradox; a commodity, but yet undervalued.

    It costs only one dollar, for the New York Times each day. One dollar? It’s ludicrous. Many people would easily pay 5x that for the privilege of reading the morning paper. Most people pay more than that for breakfast. Most people pay more than that just for coffee. In marketing jargon this is a matter of premium positioning. The newspaper, and all the goodness it delivers (to your door, I might add) from foreign news desks to business, national news, Op-Ed, real estate, travel, dining, Arts. This is a luxury item.

  28. This issue blurs across age group categories as does general consumer behavior. For some age groups, content defines who they are (younger more so than older). When I was young (35 years ago), I would carry around my baseball cards because that was a statement for my young life trying to broadcast something to anyone that cared. (No one really did.) Today, kids love to show you who is on their iPod. The music (and movies, TV shows) define an element of them. For some older generations, a wall of CDs or DVDs in their family room define them. This behavior has ramifications on physical vs on-demand.

  29. Agree with all of your points here – only caveat I see is for a family with kids. Especially little ones who have a tendency to watch “Monsters, Inc” or “The Bee Movie” 40-50 times over their lifetime. In that case, owning the DVD makes sense.

  30. My 14 year old buys old vinal (not even sure how to spell it) LPs on ebay and then digitizes them for his ipod library. Not sure what to do with that?

  31. Digital media is the ultimate commodity in our consumerist culture. Used and consumed and disposed of at a whim and without a trace.

    It is interesting to consider this trend for the (nanotechnology-enabled) future, when EVERY product is reduced to digital media files that can be streamed to your 3D printer for assembly on demand.

    Might you not be writing a similar post Jeremiah, in 25 years, where you bemoan people’s antiquidated ideals of owning any physical products, including their clothes – when you yourself prefer to print whatever suit you want in the mornings and dispose of it in the evenings to be recycled into something new the following day?

  32. First, I think it’s very hard to discuss this subject regardless of our own generation/experiment/feelings. I’m 35, records have been an essential part of my life (a la ‘High Fidelity’) and I can’t imagine living in a purely dematerialized musical environment. Books are not only information printed on paper: they are objects. They are beautiful, appealing, ugly, heavy, soft, whatever… You carry them around, fold them, lend them, note them. It’s not just a matter of owing and knowing the content.

    But if we go beyond our physical/sentimental relationships with objects, what must digital content achieve to fully rival physical supports:

    * securing the content: you can lose a book in your apartment, but you’re most likely to crash your HD

    * improving the experience: owning a CD is not just being able to listen to it, it’s also being part of a group: “I’m the kind of person who thinks David Bowie is cool”, or “I’m a young rebel with punk ideals”. Downloads can hardly give you those feelings.

    * be fully open and perennial: we can read books from 300 years ago, which is unvaluable for historians. In 300 years time, will we be able to read epub?

    This is the three main challenges I see. Interestingly enough, they are not on the same level:

    * security is a distribution issue (licensing, replacement of lost files, etc.)
    * experience is an edition issue (how to package immaterial things? that’s an interesting challenge. spend time on this, labels, not on chasing pirates)
    * openness and perenniality is a technology issue (but whatever comes out, it will never be as robust and ubiquitous as ink and paper).

    This is my relections for today. I hop it adds a bit to the interesting first post and the following commentaries.

  33. The proponents of every new technology or way of doing things are quick to announce the “death” or obsolescence of what’s come before. It’s still too early for such predictions.

    In the meantime, when your hard drive crashes and the network’s down, I’ll be listening to the vinyl collection, which sound better than your badly compressed mp3/aac files. Compressed is ok for the car, but I want the good sounding version for home.

    When my mp3 player stops working and my hard drive dies, or when the next, better-sounding portable file comes along, I can load the music on the new device the same way as I did on the old: from my CD and vinyl collection. Can you say the same? What about the people who bought from the Yahoo music store?

    As long as their are small, independent bands (who can make up for the meager pay involved in playing a small gig by selling shirts and, yes, physical media at the shows) and poorer countries where not everyone can afford a computer and a computerized portable media player, but may be able to buy an old record player and a few records and as long as there are still audiophiles, physical media will continue to exist, even though some think it “archaic.”

  34. Oh, yeah, STUFF is bad, access is GOOD!

    Long a proponent of getting rid of ‘stuff’ (or not collecting it), the ability to look up a word in the dictionary…online, the phone book…online, on a map….online, or consume TV, movies, books, and MORE online is a welcome change in technology.

  35. Neither form of media storage is perfect, whether owning them on a circular piece of material, or getting it off the web when you need it. The media could break for some careless reason, and your network connection could falter.

    It won’t be ideal, until we can compress and store digital content within our bodies, and when we have internal software to manage all of those files. At that point, we can simply ‘carry around’ any media which we think will be in demand by our whim in the near future. For any new media, we can pull those down off the net, and store them until we need them no longer.

    Another aspect of this, is that the nature of entertainment is going to change drastically, when we have fully immersive virtual reality. Given a choice between watching James Bond defeat the enemy, or virtually BEing Bond, which would one choose?

    DVDs will be obsolete in the near to medium term. But entertainment media in general will no longer be necessary, sometime beyond that.

  36. Interesting thoughts. Completely agree. But I must admit it is hard to let go of the physical possession urge/habit. I own season 1 of BSG, but have streamed the remaining seasons – so I am crossing the bridge. It’s funny I have old CDs in big black clunky cases gathering dust on a shelf at home – definite remnants of a time past. But surely pirated content also plays a part in shifting behaviour from the offline to digital arena (and there are alternate sites/affordable options, but still no real solutions to this issue?). What are your top streaming sites?

  37. Jerimah,

    You seem to have left out subscription music services like Rhapsody and Napster. What makes owning your music different than movies? What about renting your music the way you rent your cable TV or your movies? All you can eat for the price of one (environmentally unfriendly) CD per month. It fits in with your wants- you don’t have any physical media to fuss over, it’s extremely portable, it’s on demand and customizable.

    Lacy Kemp

  38. Getting a lot of interesting comments both here and in email (people are responding to my email digest)

    Some folks suggest that some archaic paper forms could outlive my blog! Quite possible.

    One thing that I want to emphasize is that most media consumption we do is ‘disposable consumption’ we read once and throw away (ROTA)?

    Mark Bruce, clever. Yes I can’t wait to print out today’s tshirt.

    debindc, agreed, some media gets extended plays –but what percent is that? Also, downloaded media, or on demand media can still be played over and over too –we don’t need the physical copy at home.

  39. My answer to your question is — it depends.

    I’m speaking as a digital immigrant so media “ownership” used to be the only option. Personally, I prefer a middle road, i.e. to borrow books from the library over purchase, because, unless they are reference works, I read/ assimilate what I can and then pass them on to others. Similarly I rent DVD from Blockbuster because rare is the movie I watch more than once.

    Downloading to portable devices is brilliant in that it reflects and compliments our untethered current existence. Music and short blogs work well in this format. If you have to contemplate the content then a more permanent media would be preferable.

    Re: Permanency — We haven’t been using servers to store data on long enough to know what the actual life span of unbacked up data really is — I mean the Dead Sea Scrolls stood the test of time in the desert, but are fairly unique. Other documents exist for over 500 years in the right environment. Can we extrapolate that disc held data will do the same? I question anyone with a definite answer, because how could they possibly know?

  40. Agree with you Jeremiah. Living in San Francisco doesn’t afford me much storage space so I’m always looking to edit schtuff in my condo. When I look at my CD/DVD collection, my head aches. Most of my music is already digitally stored and all of the movies I own can be viewed on-demand. The only DVD’s that I proudly display and still want to tangibly see is my Lord of the Rings collector DVD’s. That, and all seasons from Sex and the City.

  41. I can certainly agree with the environmental aspects of owning media, goes for any other product. Its very interesting to ponder what our future will look like with both physical and digital media. I think it will be a combination of both. Having the choice is one of our most (over)enjoyed qualities of living in the West. Why do people still go to the video store and rent DVD’s? Its a cultural experience. People like to get out and wander around even if to leave empty handed. You can’t duplicate that social experience online. How do we make that better? I would like to see my own database stored in a cloud whereby I could have access to any movie that I’ve purchased/rented that would allow me to rate/comment on it because how many movies have you rented, forgotten to bring back, pay a late fee just to realize that the movie, well, sucked. Maybe its a combination of walking (not driving) to the movie store, bringing your own personalized BluRay (or hologram, flash drive etc) disk, pick your movie and have the clerk copy the movie to your disk. The cover changes images to reflect the movie and you walk out with you physical/digital media device. It you wished to keep a copy of it, pay your owner fee, you burn the disk, print off the label and there you have it. It plays on your encoded player for a certain period of time with the ability to renew it through your player (Blockbuster, Rogers are you listening?). That would reduce a large collection of media, packaging, shipping etc. Good for the environment, yes. Good for collectors, yes. Good for digital collectors, yes.
    I don’t think its a matter of you will only have one or the other, but choice. Something we take for granted and are very fortunate enough to have every day!

    Good topic Jeremiah!

  42. This one touched a nerve… and I honestly scanned but don’t see anyone who has touched on something I think you missed, Jeremiah.

    No one will ever want to own a “signed first edition kindle book” – nor will an artist autograph your iPod because his first release is on it.

    There is another dimension to physical media that some of us will never let go of.

    The folios of Shakespeare, the Dead Sea scrolls, the first editions of Robert Frost… these will never be ‘obsolete’ – but will only grow in importance as consumers begin to perceive their media as disposable and therefor do not value having something tangible to pass down to the next generation.

    Hand-written diaries are more priceless than any blog will ever be – because they are not merely pixels floating thru the aether dependent upon servers and access… they are tactile representations of the passage of time.

    It’s not always about ownership – sometimes? It’s about experiencing something through more than one sense… and sometimes, it’s about living history.

    I’d rather have an album cover signed by Jimi Hendrix than a thousand MP3s of artists who wonder if their current work will sustain past the current form of distribution.

  43. It’s this attitude that is cloggin the Internet when everyone
    thinks they have to be able to download video content immediately.

  44. I agree with not having tons of traditional media clouding your space however, sometimes I like to have things to grasp and call my own. Call me old fashioned but I have taken a liking to both. Sure I have my feed demon and twitter. But I still ordered extra copies of the newspaper edition that declared Obama president. Sometimes buying an item you want then and there or from a certain place or event holds a certain nostalgia for me. I enjoy books from friends that were picked out for me. I still buy cds from concerts and music festivals. I do use i tunes to buy music but if I really respect the artist I go out and buy the cd as well. Also, many of the next gen have ipods etc but as far as books and kindle in learning institutions go, will we buy every student a laptop or kindle? Will we bitch about having to pay higher taxes to give students these tools? I still like printed pictures and the way my fiancee’s family has written and e media archive and pictures from when his grandfathers battles from casablanca to anzio. There are some things that need to be preserved. I have several portable hard drives, a blackberry, 3 computers and rely heavily on technology. However, I hope that “archaic media” doesn’t go extinct any time soon.

  45. The claim that digital streaming will replace digital storage is nonsense. In an ideal world of unlimited bandwidth, it still makes no sense for me to stream my favorite album every single time I want to listen to it. As the price of local storage (ie, flash drives) drops to nothing, it will be even more appealing for me to store things locally.

    Even the theoretical future world of vast electronic resources will care about resource management. We’ll want that bandwidth for temporary and dynamic content, just like we do now.

  46. Erik

    But we agree. The iTunes and iPod model works well, as does slingbox and Tivo. Network feeds data to a rich client.

    The argument is against having a bunch of little cardboard and plastic boxes sitting in your house for media storage

  47. Lucretia

    I also think we agree, but we need some more clarification

    Shakespeare, the Dead Sea scrolls, the first editions of Robert Frost, are these media or important artifacts? I’d go with the later.

    I think the discussion is around the common media we all are used to like DVDs, CDs, VHS.

    Regarding artist signatures on memorabilia, good point. But there are tons of other items you can get their signatures on (tshirts, posters, bobble heads)

    This brings another interesting point up, what if being ‘followed’ by an artist in Twitter or connected to them digitally ends up having similar value to a signed CD?

    In the end, the previous items never go away (your reference to prized personal items) but this argument is against mainstream consumer media.

  48. As a 23 year old, I can tell you about how I consume and how my friends do (20-25 year olds).

    Almost everyone I know uses Hulu to catch up on shows or discover shows they never knew about in the first place. I love being able to get on Hulu and watch episodes from a show that I liked but was canceled years ago. Music is bought online or vinyl. They only buy CDs at concerts because its unavailable elsewhere or they want to directly support the band. A lot of us use netflix but the ones who don’t use redbox or local movie stores. The reason being we want what we want, when we want it. My friends mostly don’t have the patience to wait a day or two to get movies. We decide what we want to watch and want to watch it later that day or immediately. That’s why netflix streaming is extremely important to us. Although, the variety and quantity of content right now is not extensive enough right now.

    For now, DVDs still are bought. Only my friends that are more technically savvy have a computer or video game system hooked up that allows movie/video streaming. I expect it will be only a matter of time until this changes though. There isn’t any negative attitude against streaming or downloading movies to an apple tv like device. The complexity and cost just prevents most kids/students right now. Especially when they already have a $30 dvd player and there’s no significant cost savings from renting or buying a physical dvd than streaming/downloading one.

    The above reader who mentions signing of posters for music artists is completely right. Posters are huge. People love screen printed posters. It’s another way to show what music you like without having a wall of CDs 🙂

    Physical media consumption will slow but how fast will be determined by how reliable, simple and cheap the alternatives are.

  49. Beyond personal preferences, this is all technology and resource directed. Spare a thought for the unfortunate people in rural Britain who cannot access on-demand due to broadband speed restrictions. We are not even talking about all but a few cities in the entire African continent.

    Even when you do have the connection speed in African countries, you may not have the licensing agreements, or the ability to buy online.

    Personally I prefer storing my music and movies digitally on external hard drives. It is just more convenient and access to playlists, or creating playlists is so much more intuitive and immediate.

    TV live streamed however is another matter, more for the convenience and choice of time.

  50. A part of the reason for those shelves of DVDs, CDs, books etc is affiliation. They demonstrate who you are in the same way as the car you drive. A load of data on a hard disk somewhere or on a server in the rocky mountains doesn’t tell visitors that you are a diehard fan of Heroes. And there’s only so much wall space for posters.

    Also, the technology is still seriously flaky. Upgrading the anti-virus on my PC at home has just stopped it from booting. Admittedly that’s partly a Microsoftness but as other devices are becoming ubiquitous their complexity is increasing and, with it, vulnerability and likelihood of attack.

    Both these issues will be resolved over time but, until they are, I can still see mileage in physical media.

  51. Interesting article.

    “This brings another interesting point up, what if being ˜followed™ by an artist in Twitter or connected to them digitally ends up having similar value to a signed CD?”

    Not gonna happen. There’s a big difference between meeting an artist in person (if that’s how it was signed) vs. *knowing* them digitally.

    I do agree that physical media has some severe issues relative to the environment, which might be addressed by downloads only (let us not forget, however, that it still takes a fair amount of energy to store and distribute).

    One other reason physical media might not entirely go away: resale. I know a lot of folks that buy cds, rip them to Itunes & then sell it to recover the cost of purchasing the cd. I’ve also had issues with music I’ve downloaded to Itunes (from a cd) disappearing, which can be quite frustrating. Also worth mentioning…collectibles.

    I also think that there’s a way different perception value with walking into a store, looking at a variety of different things, and then ultimately purchasing something. Digital downloads don’t provide that same experience. I would rather have the “smell” of a book over the smell of a Kindle…even if the Kindle can hold much more information.

    I think the main thing is that people need to look at is: “Do I really need that?” I used to buy tons of dvds & now I only buy ones I know I am going to watch again.

  52. your last line scares me some. that relying, and not actually having any independence of property seems like it puts the individual at risk.

    what do you really have if all you have isn’t tangible. if a switch is flipped and all your knowledge, all you’ve worked for isn’t accessible, what are you left with?

  53. Coming in late here but I agree with Frank Meeuwsen and I think he’s made a good point as to why we may gravitate towards a CD, or book for example as “It just feels better. More human.”

    When you read a book or magazine, the experience extends not only to the words on the page, but the hands (holding and turning/flicking pages), smell (that old book smell, or high gloss pages and embossing in magazines).

    You can play a rollercoaster game on XBox but nothing will compare to the sight, sound and feeling as your body experiences the real thing.

  54. I came to the same conclusion about CDs a long time ago and now buy CDs only when I cannot download the files from the Net. I still own the copies, however, locally. I have no desire to depend upon the flakiness of the Net for my entertainment, and that’s probably why I still purchase DVDs (or Blu-ray) as well. If I want to order Season Four of The Pretender, I don’t have the storage for it on my Windows box, or on any other medium that I own, such as my DVR. Depending upon the Net in my rural location for 24/7 download is just plain foolish. So DVD/Blu-ray it is.

    Neither have I given up the hardcover book habit. I have over a thousand books (and counting) and they’re my proudest possessions. Quite frankly, reading on an electronic device frightens me. Can you say “eyestrain extreme?” I hear that the Kindle is not so bad, but in its case, the price, both for the book and the device, is prohibitive.

    So the technology is not yet there for a complete conversion to electronica, and even when it is, there are some areas where technology will never push out what already exists (and here I’m thinking of books).

  55. Just curious:

    You mention the western attitude of possession in a pejorative way more than once. Yet your #1 reason for antiquating physical media is:
    “I™m impatient, I want it, when I want it.”

    I find that attitude as harmful to society as the need for material gains.

    Just a thought.

  56. “As a 23 year old, I can tell you about how I consume and how my friends do (20-25 year olds). ”

    Yes, and as a 44 year old I can guarantee you that as you age, you consume your entertainment in a very different way.

    That’s been the problem with the whole “physical media is dead” myth. The assumption is that 20 year olds will be relating to their entertainment the same way decade after decade. True for some but the majority.

    Also, considering all the people on the planet who have cognitive difficulty due to age or disability, nothing can top press-and-play.
    Physical media ain™t going anywhere.

  57. I've just started renting DVDs using Tesco's online service, provided by Lovefilm.com. That means I can line up what I want to watch, don't have to build a collection, the postie's coming round anyway, and it doesn't use an inordinate amount of bandwidth.

    How do you watch an on-demand DVD on the train, if it's not using some peer-to-peer technology which drastically slows down your machine and uses bandwidth to share content with other people…?

  58. I prefer physical media. I know that when I buy a DVD, I can now rely on being able to watch it whenever I want, as often as I want, without further investment. Streaming is great for some content, especially when I want to see something right now and I don't have the DVD, but quality is usually inferior, often painfully so, and network problems frequently cause me to lose the option of streaming. Also, I fear that without physical copies, we are heading toward a scenario in which I have to pay a fee every time I want to view a film. This probably won't be true for all content, but I fear that it will be for more obscure, less popular titles, which is what I often prefer.

  59. I prefer physical media. I know that when I buy a DVD, I can now rely on being able to watch it whenever I want, as often as I want, without further investment. Streaming is great for some content, especially when I want to see something right now and I don't have the DVD, but quality is usually inferior, often painfully so, and network problems frequently cause me to lose the option of streaming. Also, I fear that without physical copies, we are heading toward a scenario in which I have to pay a fee every time I want to view a film. This probably won't be true for all content, but I fear that it will be for more obscure, less popular titles, which is what I often prefer.

  60. True, I agree that books are going to be the one stalwart in the trend of digitizing media, but that’s partially because the format in which we consume books as mass media has always been different than that in which we consume music and movies.  For music and movies, the method of “owning” them may differ widely between people who choose to collect DVD’s, those who download onto their hardrive, or those who just choose streaming, but the way we CONSUME them is fundamentally the same as it ever was:  in front of a screen.  When we’re talking about physical books vs ebooks, the way the two are consumed is radically different (paper v screen) and I think it will be this inability of many to accept books as an electronic media that will let physical books continue to be a viable product for many years.

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