The Decline and Fall of the Physical Media Empire

When’s the last time you bought a CD — the actu­al phys­ic­al media? Do you remem­ber the artist or album name? I can­’t remem­ber either. It’s just not a media format that has rel­ev­ance to me now, in the age of wifi and online media stores. When once upon a time I used to have my…

When’s the last time you bought a CD — the actu­al phys­ic­al media? Do you remem­ber the artist or album name?

I can­’t remem­ber either. It’s just not a media format that has rel­ev­ance to me now, in the age of wifi and online media stores.

When once upon a time I used to have my discs proudly shelved near my CD play­er, today they are gath­er­ing dust in my closet — long since hav­ing been ripped to my digit­al media centre. Espe­cially since the DRM wars are mostly over. Mostly.

Con­veni­ence played a large part of the ‘closet migra­tion’ for me. It’s. Easi­er to down­load new music. It’s easi­er to move it between devices, and it’s much easi­er to carry an entire col­lec­tion with you.

It’s dead, right?
Not really. Even though these points are com­monly recog­nized advant­ages, phys­ic­al media isn’t dead, yet. But As the title sug­gests, it is declining.

CD sec­tions in brick-and-mor­tar stores are get­ting smal­ler, as more people move to digit­al music devices — a slow pro­cess as con­sumers upgrade their enter­tain­ment sys­tems and port­able players.

Digit­al delivery
Even­tu­ally, the CD will be extinct, for the most part, much the same way the 78 LP and record play­er are mostly extinct (except for niche affi­cion­adio audiophiles).

And I, for one, wel­come our new digit­al music over­lords. I’m tired of repla­cing / dis­card­ing media every time a new and bet­ter phys­ic­al media format is developed. We don’t need any more beta / VHS / HD DVD media nor their pack­aging adding to the landfills.

I’m get­ting tired of buy­ing anoth­er phys­ic­al object just to acquire a digit­al copy of some enter­tain­ment when it’s not neces­sary with today’s tech­no­logy.  Dir­ect digit­al deliv­ery (via wi-fi or G3/4 or bluetooth) to my digit­al play­back devices is some­what avail­able now and being incor­por­ated into more devices. I’m look­ing for­ward to the day when when the CD presses shut down, and digit­al deliv­ery is the norm.

It’s coming…are you ready for it?

This post of is one of many I pub­lish weekly at the Future Shop Techb­log. Read more of my stuff here.


One response to “The Decline and Fall of the Physical Media Empire”

  1. andy Avatar

    IMHO, you are wrong.

    phys­ic­al media is not dead, and will not die com­pletely (par­tic­u­lar format, like DVD, may die even­tu­ally, though). in fact, phys­ic­al media gives you more free­dom than down­loads only:

    1. you own the media (and it’s not only about psy­cho­lo­gic­al feel­ing of own­ing some­thing). which means you can sell it, swap it, give it as a present, throw it away. it’s your thing and you do whatever you want to it.

    2. in case when there’s no inter­net, the whole “digit­al down­load only” idea becomes use­less: you are lim­ited to the stuff you have cur­rently on your hard drive. and in case of some DRM-author­iz­a­tion thing, you even can­’t use the stuff you bought. in case if you don’t remem­ber: in Egypt the whole inter­net infra­struc­ture went down once for a pretty long time.

    3. with digit­al only dis­tri­bu­tion, you are con­trolled (all the time) by dis­trib­ut­or’s EULA. and you have to “be good”, because if they think you viol­ated it, you can lose any­thing you bought. with phys­ic­al, it’s your forever (see 1.). or if a com­pany goes out of busi­ness (these things happened before — remem­ber, for example, geocities?)…

    4. com­pat­ib­il­ity and leg­acy stuff: there’s no guar­an­tee that present-day digit­al formats (enriched with super-duper DRM-thing) will be read­able in like 10 years. or hard drives will hold data that long. as for phys­ic­al, well, you can still listen to old vinyl records or read paper books prin­ted like hun­dreds of years ago.

    5. cloud com­put­ing. yeah, i know it’s a trend. people and com­pan­ies talk about it a lot. and yes, it’s pretty con­veni­ent: to be able to have your stuff from any­where in the world. but at the same time, there’s a pri­vacy issue: when you trust your (per­son­al) data to some cloud, you are bound by com­pany’s EULA, and you no longer take respons­ib­il­ity for your data. there’s also a secur­ity prob­lem: today it is easi­er to break into a cloud than to break into someone’s house and to find the CD (thumbdrive, whatever) with data.

    6. com­pan­ies like Apple are abandon­ing phys­ic­al media. they fol­low the com­mon trend (try­ing to be “innov­at­ive” by lim­it­ing our free­dom) for­get sev­er­al things: optic­al media is res­ist­ant to elec­tro­mag­net­ic fields, which means that it holds data bet­ter than flash cards. and secondly: they now dis­trib­ute Mac OS X in digit­al form. what should I do if my machine had some ter­rible crash and there’s no phys­ic­al media to recov­er it any­where near?

    7. one more thing. maybe it’s a great idea to have everything replaced with one super-cool, thin, shiny, metal­lic gad­get like iPad, but I’d prefer to be my stuff _different_: i want to see, take and read books on my shelves, enjoy the art­work of CDs (DVDs, BluRay… whatever)… no digit­al down­load can give me that feeling.

    being in the cloud is pretty con­veni­ent, but don’t rely _too much_ on it.

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