Wednesday, March 09, 2005

I finally get it but it's still wrong

For the longest time I've pondered why someone would buy a video or DVD for their home library. After all, how often do you watch a movie more than once. Maybe if it's REALLY good you go to the theater and then rent it again but buy it?! What's the point? Then it struck me one day as I was looking around the ol' apartment that I have a crap load books around. Picture books, science books, novels, political essays. I thought to myself, how often have I re-read any of these tomes? The answer, unfortunately, is not very often. Of the many thousands of titles I've owned in my lifetime I think a fair estimate would be maybe 5% were read more than once. Yet I continue to purchase books rather than borrow then from the library.

That's when I had my epiphanie. I buy them not just to read but as concrete symbols of my values, hopes and goals. I enjoy it when people come over for the first time and browse the bookshelf. I enjoy it when someone asks to borrow a book. It gives me validation and also possible insight into common interests. The books, then, are less for me than about me. The same arguement could be said about purchasing DVDs, video's, CDs or any other medium of communication that involves communicating one to many.

However, after this brief revelation, my hope took a nose dive with another horrible revelation. Unlike books, which seem to have settled into a relatively stable form during the past centuries and do not require any specialized equipment to access their contents (beyond a basic understanding of language), videos, DVDs etc. will always become obsolete.

As an analogy, how many new computers have 3.5" floppies, let alone 5.25" floppies. Yet, I'm betting that in the back of your closet there is a box of 5.25" floppy disks that you will never be able to access again.

That infomation is esstentially lost. Similarly, how many people still own an 8-track tape player? I'm betting there were some pretty good tunes on those babies that you will never be able to get access to again. 8-tracks were replaced by smaller cassette tapes, tapes by CD's and already, a new fight is beginning in the industry over competing standards for HDCD or blue-ray laser CD/DVDs. Even within an established medium there are competing, incompatible formats (what the hell is the difference between DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD+RW anyway?). The only thing I know is that handing someone a DVD or CD today does not guarantee that the person will be able to access the information. You will need to spend time transferring LPs to tape, then tapes to CDs and so on again and again, lose access to that information or buy a remastered version of the something you've already purchased. There will always be newer, better, tech that holds more, has faster access, higher fidelity, greater resolution. The humble book just continues plodding away easing communication without special tech. Behold the book! I bow before this simple yet effective form of communication.


socialsomatic said...

in a pinch, we could revert to listening to our elders. I mean, it's no Weekend at Bernie's 2, but it'd have to be better than anything on the WB.

Brad said...

Hey, I have an 8-track player w/ turntable, plenty of tapes to go with it, and a large collection of 5.25 floppies... And I know where to get a drive for them and how to install it. I'm only 25. I am a geek.

DNA The Splice of Life said...

brad, What happens when your 8-track player breaks? And do you still have the software to open files from before 1984?

DNA The Splice of Life said...

Don't mean to sound defensive. I too have scrounged around and have a 5.25 drive(tho' no 8 track). I was trying to make the point that you have to go out of your way to do what you've done. Not something you really have to do with a book.

Reta Jones said...

Take a look at this website:

There are ways to "get out of the
grove" and into the light.

CDs will probably be replaced
by some other medium but at least
your personal media will be digital.