I Still Listen to CDs and Read Books (and I bet a few other people do too)

I’ve long wanted a Kindle, but I just can’t bring myself to do it.  I’d easily spend over $300 when you factor in tax and a case. I  buy around one book per month.  At $10/book that’s 30 months before I cover the cost of the Kindle, many more before I break even because I’d still be buying said books on the device.  Then I’d have to worry about charging it, even if the battery life is amazing. I’d also be locked in to Amazon’s proprietary format.  The Kindle is great in sunlight, but the book is better.  Books can be bent, crushed, and spilled on and they don’t stop working.  If I lose one book I don’t lose the ability to read them all.  They can easily be marked up in any way I chose.  Plus they look nice on my shelf – they add character to a room.  In terms of environmental impact, I’m not so sure that the manufacturing of a Kindle combined with the energy required to use it and (lets be realistic) the eventual cost to destroy it is really any less than that of the paper in my book.  The Kindle is a really cool device.  In a lot of ways I want one, but in my opinion it still isn’t better than the book.

When it comes to CDs, I know a lot of people who are audiophiles and want to be able to rip the lossless audio from the CD.  I know some people who collect the album art.  I do neither, but I do use them for my podcasts.  I find it infinitely easier to just have a CD in my car that picks up right where I left off.  No wire to run to my iPod.  Nothing to carry in and out of the car during the warm weather. No worrying about charging or building playlists or any of that stuff.

When a new technology replaces an old technology, I feel like we have a tendency to talk in absolutes.  Newspapers and magazines are dead, we have the internet.  CDs are dead, we have the MP3.  Books are gone, we have the Kindle.  For some, this is definitely the case. I know a lot of people who don’t read anything in print or listen to anything that isn’t on their iPod or computer.  But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t use-cases where the old platform still wins.  The interesting thing to me is that the companies that are making newspapers or books are so focused on the new emerging markets that they forget to focus on those situations where a book really is better than a Kindle, or a CD is better than a MP3 file.  These platforms may be in decline,  but it’ll be a long time before they are dead.  Some business will find an opportunity there.

17 comments on I Still Listen to CDs and Read Books (and I bet a few other people do too)

  1. Rob says:

    So true. Proper, real books are just such nice things to have. It’s a pity they can’t be “backed up” or that if you have thousands you need to consider storage implications, cataloguing etc. but to me the benefits definitely outweigh the costs.

    On a similar note to your last, about absolutes and still having uses for older technology, see this – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8646699.stm

    • Adam McFarland says:

      That’s a great article. That Verbatim is a perfect example of what I was referring to. Sony might not be manufacturing floppy disks anymore because it’s too tiny of a fish for them, but to a small company it’s a huge opportunity. The fact that they sell “millions” of floppy disks each month in Europe shows just how long it takes for a technology to become completely deprecated, and how long there will likely be opportunities with CDs and in print media.

      • Rob says:

        Did you read through the comments on the article? There was one in particular that caught my eye. The person said that they wanted a single disk but had to buy 20 as that was the minimum pack size and so they postulated that these high minimum pack sizes could be artificially inflating sales and so demand may be much lower.

        • Adam McFarland says:

          Ha I had not read the comments. Just read that now…those numbers make a little more sense now I suppose. 20 seems like a lot, but if I was selling them I’d probably stick to a 10-pack as the smallest. They’re so inexpensive it doesn’t make sense to sell them individually, much like blank CDs and DVDs. I think the smallest denomination I’ve seen of either of those is a 5-pack.

  2. Mark W. says:

    I still read paperback books, listen to CDs, … and spin my vinyl records occasionally. There is no substitute for the full spectrum of sound emanated from a needle pressing vinyl. There was a time when people sat down and just listened to music. 🙂
    One article that covers the recent resurgence of vinyl is here –
    http://www.wired.com/entertainment/music/commentary/listeningpost/2007/10/listeningpost_1029
    BTW, I still know how to use a map and compass so I don’t have to worry about a device malfunction, dead batteries, or whatever. No navigation system in my vehicle either – nobody telling me where to go. 🙂

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Good article Mark. Vinyl is another great example.

      I too keep a US map of all the major highways in my car in case the GPS fails. Believe it or not, it’s come in handy a few times, albeit before I had a GPS enabled phone

  3. Tim says:

    I’m with you Adam, I love the idea of the Kindle and will probably own one eventually(or a similar type device) but between the cost and convenience of a real book I just can’t bring myself to do it at this time. The only thing I REALLY like about the Kindle is that thousands of books are available for free when you purchase it, I read a lot of classics and old literature in general and I think it would offset the cost in a hurry. With that said the classics are easy to find at used book stores for $0.99 in a lot of cases, there is a personality and character to a book that these e-readers will never have. At least half of my book collection was purchased used, and that percentage will continue to grow, one day when I pass on my library will still be around and available for future generations to read.

    As most Sci-Fi movies predict if we were to be taken over and controlled by even another group of humans one of the first things that would vanish would be books, keep people dumb, keep them from thinking, learning and growing and you have a society that is very easy to keep under control. In the event something like that were to take place, or even massive power failures, my collection of books would still work and provide the same information countless times. I enjoy daytime power failures, if the suns out, it’s a great excuse to take some time to just read.

    If I end up traveling a lot more, which may be the case in the near future, I almost certainly will purchase a kindle, for certain lifestyles it does make a lot of sense. But I can guaranty when I return home I’ll be doing it the old fashioned way!

    • Adam McFarland says:

      I totally agree with you Tim, I’d probably buy one if I was traveling more, but books aren’t really that bad to travel with. I tend to pick one or two and bring it with me (really not that much larger than a Kindle unless it’s Atlas Shrugged or something). If and when I finish those books, I enjoy perusing local book stores or browsing the book stores at the airport or train station. It gives me something to do. It can be a good conversation starter in a new place, or a good way to kill time at the airport. Plus I tend to find the best books when I’m just randomly looking around.

  4. Rob says:

    I think the books argument is a good one, as there are still superiorities in the old technology. With MP3s, there’s still plenty to commend CDs over them – that they’re (often) higher quality, have cover art, can be played very widely etc. With Cassette Tapes there’s less to commend them…

    Obviously there are some superiorities with maps vs. GPS, but there’s absolutely no way I could do my job without GPS – yeah, we all know where the highways are and the best way of getting from one end of the country to the other, but a map can’t tell me how to find a tiny conference centre in the middle of a one-way-street maze in a city I’m unfamiliar with without me having to stop every 20 seconds to read the next part, can it? Don’t get me wrong, I still have national and European maps in my car, as well as detailed maps for a few big cities, and they do get used when I’m on holiday, but on work time that’s just not something I want to worry about.

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Definitely. In your line of work the GPS must have been a huge time saver. I can imagine it was much more difficult to coordinate everyone when you were dealing with just maps. My GPS is #1, my cell phone is #2, and the map is the absolute last resort. Still, it’s nice to have maps if the GPS breaks and the cell isn’t in range, or both are out of battery. Not an impossible scenario.

  5. Adam McFarland says:

    OK so like two days later every e-book maker in the world has entered a price war and all of a sudden the Kindle is $189. Looking a little better…give me $99 and I’ll do it 🙂

  6. Tim says:

    I’ve said for a few years that $99 is a good price point for a Kindle, maybe next year 🙂

  7. Tim says:

    I have an interesting update on this subject. My business partners mother owns a small, privately owned book store in Virginia. Typically the summer months are her busy season and this June has been her worst month in years with no sign of it turning around. A few more months like this and she will have to close the shop down entirely. While the minority may prefer an actual book, with better e-readers that are more available and cheaper, the rising costs of shipping goods and the actual production of them I think we are going to see a very rapid decline in “hard print” in the next 5 years. If the ripples are already impacting the mom and pop shops, it will be felt by the big guys too, the days of GIANT Borders and Barnes & Noble stores may start going way of Blockbuster, well maybe not that drastic, but probably to smaller physical stores with far less inventory. Interestingly I think this creates a huge opportunity for used book stores and I think Amazon will flourish between the kindle, not having expensive retail space with an unsurpassed inventory and great pricing.

    • Rob says:

      That’s a really sad case Tim, I do hope she manages to turn it around somehow.

      It’s already affecting the big stores here. The two big ones are (were) Waterstones & Borders. Borders went into administration last year – http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/nov/26/borders-goes-into-administration – they were all prime city centre, multi-floor retail units with coffee shops etc. A number of my friends lost their jobs. The unit near here stayed closed a long time and just last month reopened as a chain suit hire/sale store. There’s now only the one big book retailer here and if the independent stores go too then that’s it.

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Sorry to hear about that store. I hope she finds a way to turn it around. I agree that there is a big opportunity for used book stores, but that they might have to adjust their business models. Most of the ones I’ve been to are very unorganized, but you can find some gems if you dig around. If it was a little better organized you could get your store online and supplement the in-store sales with sales on the web. There are a lot of people looking for out-of-print books on the web. Shipping books is very cheap and easy compared to most other online retail businesses.

      • Adam McFarland says:

        Rob – that link to the Guardian reminded me of something. How freaking cool is it that they have an open API http://www.guardian.co.uk/open-platform Unlike most media companies, they realize that by letting developers use their content to build businesses everyone wins. I can’t imagine what I could do with LockerPulse if we had more to work with than just RSS feeds.

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