Bill Hunt at The Digital Bits offers an interesting “rant” (its rant number two, about halfway down the column) here:
Basically, he’s worried about movie studios and “digital streaming”. I think he hits the bullseye in many respects with the rant, noting that when you purchase a “stream” of a film, you really don’t own it. Yes, you can watch the film but, should the movie studios in the future decide to remove the film from their streaming services (for whatever reason), you’re essentially out of luck. The film you “purchased” is gone.
Mr. Hunt goes on to compare this with music streaming and, effectively, champions keeping a “hard copy” of whatever entertainment (be it music or motion picture) you may have because of the possibility that somewhere down the road the thing you spent money on might no longer be accessible to you.
I can certainly sympathize with Mr. Hunt’s worries. Technology has shifted dramatically. A few years ago, I had to go to the local electronics store and bookstore to see the latest movies/books/music that was available for purchase. Now, there are no bookstores anywhere near me, and its been quite a while since I’ve gone out to the local Best Buy.
If I’m purchasing music, I do so exclusively online (and, yes, I do actually purchase the music!) via download. I keep copies of my music on my harddrive and a backup drive, but the idea of having “physical” copies on CD has become a thing of the past.
So too it seems with most books. If I want one, I tend to go to Amazon and download it and read it on my tablet. If I want a physical copy of a book, I similarly order it (usually through Amazon) and wait the few days it takes before arriving at my home. It’s hard to believe it, but I don’t miss the bookstores.
As for movies, I realized early on that, like laserdiscs, there were a bunch of films I had to have early one, and I spent an awful lot of money getting my hands on them. I moved to DVD and then to BluRay, but once I had those “essentials”, my spending dropped dramatically. I tend to use Netflix to check out “new” films, and if I like them enough, I will purchase a physical copy, but I can honestly say many of the newer films I’ve seen are decent but only a few have been worth actually owning.
What is the point of all this?
I guess it boils down to this: What used to be standard is no longer so. We used to want books/movies/music, we’d go to a book/music/movie store to buy them. We’d have the physical copies. Now, we go online and do one of three things: download the material, stream it, or purchase physical copies which are sent to our home.
Which means that the physical shops I used to see are slowly, inevitably, dying out. As I said before, I don’t have a bookstore close to my house. And I live in a BIG city. The nearest bookstores are at least a half hour to forty five minutes away. As for music stores, forget it. The only movie store is a Best Buy about twenty minutes away and, as I noted before, I barely go there anymore.
And I don’t miss doing so.
The fact is a that computers and the internet have created the proverbial better mousetrap, but I worry about the consequences. Less physical stores means less places for people to hang out and meet other people. Also, less places for employment. When we were younger, many of us worked in a record or bookstore. No longer. A big section of business has effectively been compressed into an online system of which Amazon is king and iTunes is running a close second.
Unquestionably, I have access to everything I want and/or need within my fingertips. I can find obscure films or music or books without the hassle of running to different stores searching (often in vain) for what I want.
But this instant gratification comes with a cost locally.
It is better for the consumers, I believe. But is it better?