13 September 2006

Digital Content

I've been moving, ever so slowly, more and more to digital content. I'm, I guess like a lot of geeks, a hoarder. So even if I'll never read that book again, if I thought that CD I bought in 1996 was crap or, that that game I bought 6 years ago won't even run on my machines even if I wanted to play it I'll still keep hold of them. I've got my DVD collection on a bookcase and my CD collection of some large racks. It's a bizarre thing for me, therefore, to see this media as worthless and switch to an entirely digital platform. The tangible form of a CD has long been lost to me in favour of the ease of use of a digital library and the ability to quickly make playlists and access all of my library. However I know that, if I need to, I can go back to that original and get another copy of it.

I realised, though, that it was the ability to get a copy from the original format that bothered me it was more a sense of ownership of the item. iTunes, with it's DRM one download file, doesn't give me a sense of ownership. All I have is a stream of data that, if all copies of that are lost, can just as easily be destroyed as can be bought. Steam doesn't bother me in the same way at all (at least now it doesn't); the fact that once bought, the product is mine, free to be downloaded again to a new machine in the event the first is destroyed. I don't need to worry about losing the disc (though, I guess, I do need to worry about the company going under). It's not the data that is mine it is the product and that feels so much more tangible.

All this witter is really about the new iTunes Store Movies (though I doubt that they are available in the UK anyway. As they are much larger than music it is far more likely that I'd want to free up the space they take up and re-download them later. I need ownership of that product, not the series of 1s and 0s that make up a transient copy of it that I have.

Am I alone in my desire for a sense of ownership over a product?


Matthew said...

Pedentry mode: Compact Discs are a digital medium too. It's not the digitalnes your talking about but the difference between ownership of a "right" and of a physical artifact.

Of course we've never legally owned our software and our music and video may be the same. We've always owned a licence with some free media thrown into the bargain.

Gary said...

Not entirely. For example it is, as far as I'm aware, still actually a crime in the UK to create an MP3 of a CD as what you've licensed is the music on that media.

It's less about actual ownership and more about feeling that you have something. In some cases (PDFs from DriveThruRPG and games from Steam) I feel like I actually have some possession of that object. In the case of iTunes and such I don't. I think that's more down to record and movie companies being really paranoid about actually providing a "if you own it you can download it indefinitely" service.

endie said...

I like the touch of a book. It would take something remarkable in technology to make me leave that (and I've playe with a few alternatives, never with any success).

But cds and games? Less so. The fact that Apple won't let you re-download stuff you've already pay for is horrendous, though: I had kinda fooled myself that they did. I can't believe that.

Gary said...

You are quite right about the feel of a book. I tend to own reference books as electronic books rather than fiction. Even still reading from a laptop isn't as easy as reading from a book and that lack of feel is definitely noticeable. I'm interested to see if those eBook readers take off. It's certainly, I expect, easier to carry textbooks and reference books on such a device but I expect, like most, I'd still rather prefer a paperback book to read on the bus.

As for the Apple thing. I don't know if it will change. They certainly know what items you've purchased (you can see your purchase history from the store). I expect not while they can get away with charging people again for losing the song they bought.