Physical Media—How much longer?

3 Comments 24 February 2010

Quellipsis (hands down the best blog on puncuation) has an interesting post up on the death of physical media. Certainly the move to online databases accessible from multiple devices will only hasten the elimination of physical media (which is pretty much just wasteful at this point).

So where do I think we stand on physical media?

Newspapers: Pretty much dead.

Magazines: Shakey, but OK for now. We need iPad-like devices to really recreate and enrich the magazine format. Like this:

Books: On the way out. We need a killer eBook device, but it’s on the horizon. Children’s books and small runs of physical books will always be viable though. I hope (what if we lose all electricity?).

Music: Dead. Who buys CDs anymore? Why?

Movies: Still viable—especially the mail rental market. Files are too big to store electronically. No pipe or distribution model in place to stream a vast library of content at 1080p. Infrastructure in the US would probably need some big improvements before we move to a purely digital model.

What am I missing? Go check out what Quellipsis has to say about the death of physical media. Certainly thought-provoking and he has a kick-ass image for the post.

Your Comments

3 Comments so far

  1. Cparlo says:

    “Who buys CDs? Why?”
    Well, the vinyl market has increased again over the past few years because of better sound quality and the need for many to have something tangible. CDs and vinyl have better sound quality (with the proper stereo equipment) than MP3s and pirated torrents, and they have the artistic side of things that many fans want – artwork, liner notes, lyrics. There are many advantages to digital in some aspects, but physical still serves a need- witness the skyrocket in physical sells of Michael Jackson immediately after his death while digital sells were available as well. Record stores offer community, conversation, and can be places to see concert advertisements, in-store performances, etc. There’s no way to support a small indie band if your pirate their material or pay them pennies on the dollar for their work, so if we switch to streaming and pirating only, we’re pretty much signing the death of all future cutting edge music, because it won’t be viable to perform. Real music lovers want to support their hard-working artists.

    • Brian says:

      While I would agree that CDs offer something tangible (I myself recently purchased The Gorillaz new album to A) support them, and B) because Hewlett is a genius illustrator) they are horrible for the environment (plastic cases, paper inserts, shipping them around, housing them in stores). I would argue that t-shirts, concert ticket stubs, posters, etc, are a MUCH better way to support and remember your band. I don’t think any album I bought in the last few years had liner notes. I think a Linkin Park album was the last one that had anything worth reading. Again, the internet trumps. I can get all that info and more between message boards and wikipedia. I can get lyrics online as well, without having to store anything in my already crowded apartment.
      Your point about vinyl is a good one. I’m not a fan, but certainly there is a sound quality you get from vinyl that is unique. And if the album artwork is good, then a record sleeve is actually at a size where you can appreciate it.
      I think vinyl is actually a good example of where CDs will end up- very limited runs for a niche market.
      Dedicated music stores are dying out fast. And it is a shame, as they are cool places. Do you think that the community that’s supported by record stores can be taken in by musical instrument shops? Or do you think the hardcore market that still buys music on physical media will be enough to support places like Amoeba?

      • CParlo says:

        I don’t think musical instrument shops can replace music stores, simply because not every avid music fan can or wishes to play an instrument. It’s true lyrics and info can be found online, and you’re probably right that CDs will end up a niche market for collectors someday. Myself, I prefer to buy the vinyl and/or download the mp3s. I sometimes buy the CDs simply because they are cheaper than the download sometimes and I do like the layout, artwork, etc and it’s more of an experience than just the digital use in some aspects. I guess the environmental issue is worth a thought too, but I think of the jobs associated with transporting, stocking, selling as a plus and I think like shipments of all things the emphasis should be on green/safe ways to ship and not “stopping shipping.” Alternatives’ to typical plastic like the more modern recylced yet sturdy CD cases, as is the case for the new Broken Bells, the new Drive by Truckers, etc. There are simply no ways to ensure the physical stores stay forever unless the newer generations realize the importance they have to the scene and make an active decision to support their local and indie shops, scenes and artists. Another thing is that if you have a lot of music and you have renters insurance, it’ll pay to replace the vinyl and CDs, not the digital files and Apple won’t let you redownload either. Much to think of.

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