Digital Vs. Physical Goods

Not long ago, I posted about how paper books are now the deprecated choice in my household. Recently, as my daughter began crawling and pulling up, she wreaked havoc on our CD rack, throwing disks all over the place. Cleaning them up and moving them to somewhere safe, I was struck with how many of them I couldn’t remember playing in the last decade. I was even more struck with the desire to get a number of these out of my house.

I am forming a new three-tiered approach on how to deal with goods that I could just as easily have in physical or digital form. This is still a work in progress but looks to be something like the following:

  1. Goods that I for sure want to own physically

    These are items that have been autographed, items that are collectible, items that have sentimental value such as heirlooms or gifts.

  2. Goods that I for sure want to own digitally

    These are the things I now buy (or download for free) to my Kindle or for my MP3 player. This is the category of things that I actively don’t want a physical copy in my living space, even if I get it for free.

  3. Goods that I am ambivalent about their physical vs digital ownership

    This is the new category that I realized shlepping CDs around. Many of these CDs are ones that I should do what many of my friends did 10 years ago, which is to rip them digitally, put them on a safe backup drive somewhere (or the cloud) and get the hell rid of the physical disk. If and when Ion Audio ever releases their book scanner, many of the books that are in my house would also fit in this category. These are goods that I currently own in physical form that if and when I could convert that do a digital form, I’d gladly get rid of the artifact. I’m going to take a wild stab and say for either books or music, between 30 and 50% of what I own would fall inside this category.

I love the idea of the DIY Book Scanner project and godspeed to them, but I’m not handy enough to build on myself. That’s why I’d rather trade $150 to Ion Audio to get a prebuilt production model of something that appears to be based off the open design. If I get one, I will go on a spree of digitizing books, putting them on a backup drive and my Kindle and either listing on eBay or donating to my local library’s book sale.

Interestingly, when I get a Kindle Fire and install the Comixology app, [Update: I’m told Comixology comes pre-installed on the Fire] I’ll have a new category of entertainment that is governed by these three tiers. I can totally see the books I currently buy one copy of issue #1 at my local comic shop to try out migrating over to Comixology. If it turns out I don’t like the book, I’ve figured that out more cheaply. For the books I do like, I’ll add them to my pull list and possibly go back and get the earlier issues in paper if I care.

One of the aspects of myself I like the least and most would like to change is my pack rat behavior. Whatever in my life I can move from a pile in my messy office to a file on a hard drive or a device, that is a positive trade to me. Dear digital world, help save me from myself.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.

2 thoughts on “Digital Vs. Physical Goods”

  1. Ken Kennedy says:

    I am 110% with you on this, Dave. I am _such_ a horrible packrat, and so many of these things are just *useless*, especially in the physical format (like your CD example). I’m not really interested in the “New Year’s resolution” sort of thing (and I’m starting early anyway), but I’m looking to unclutter moving forward. My house, my brain…my life. I need a lot of uncluttering. *grin*

  2. DJ Brumby says:

    I took steps to “digitalize” as much as I could a few years back, rationalizing that it was necesarry because I could not afford to buy my own home and moving was becoming tough due to aging muscles and joints making it harder to shlep around all those boxes. SOOO much easier to move one small box of HDs/Flash than MANY heavy boxes full of books, records, tapes, cassettes, discs. But there’s a caveat I discovered when I began to experience aging eyes as well…reading digital books is a problem when you start needing glasses for the same reasons you need the glasses. Backlight flicker, though subliminal, shortens your available reading time before eyestrain becomes too much. I can still read through a pretty massive normally sized print book with a good reading light in one sitting. Trying that with a digital copy only leads to eyestrain and headache. I now dream of a home of my own with a room lined with bookshelves…and the money to replace my lost real books.

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