I remember the first CD I bought. Fleetwood Mac’s Behind the Mask in 1990. I didn’t have a CD player yet, but I didn’t want to be one of those people who bought a player but couldn’t afford to buy the disks. I was in college, and the popular way to share music was to record off the radio onto cassette, including bits of ads and DJs’ voiceovers, then record cassette-to-cassette to put the songs in the order you wanted, or to give them to your friends.
I was not shocked and amazed to hear the superior quality of the CD over cassettes. I was, however, very impressed with the fact that you could easily skip to whatever track you wanted. This was a marvel for Scottish Highland Dancers, who could not tell where the beginning of the music for the four-step Fling was because it sounded the same as a six-step Fling or Strathspey. Serious dancers took their dance music and put each and every song on its own cassette. Waiting for cassettes to rewind was a regular part of dance class.
When I finally got a CD player of my own, I didn’t replace my twenty-some cherished cassettes. Every rare once in a while, I indulged in a brand new expensive-for-me CD. One huge benefit of the nanny job I later held was the family’s huge CD collection. Each day, I would carefully pick five CDs, put them in the player, and enjoy them all day before carefully putting them back into their very organized drawers at the end of the afternoon. When I mentioned to the dad that the kids (aged 3 & 5) loved Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Sometimes You’re the Windshield, Sometimes You’re the Bug he picked up the CD on the way home the next day. I was impressed that he could just buy it on a whim.
Reading into history, we of Generation X looked at the vinyl we’d listened to in our childhoods, the cassettes we’d embraced in adolescence, ignored the eight-tracks that are hardly worth mentioning, and cherished our brand-new CDs. We looked to the future, wondering what would come next, and whether it would be worth it. Some of us clung to the CDs, saying they were perfectly nice and we didn’t need anything else. Others looked forward to whatever the new tech would be, like the hoards of shoppers who camp out for every new fruity innovation today.
And then came the digital revolution. It was fantastic! We could make our own high-quality mixes on CD. We could make playlists on our computers that lasted all day. We could buy music online, forgoing any physical carrier altogether.
It splintered. No longer could we choose among vinyl, cassette, or CD and play it on our home stereo systems that easily handled all three. Surprisingly, instead of just buying a new device to plug into our versatile home stereos, all of a sudden the version we bought determined how we could listen to it. Sometimes, you had to purchase a CD at a specific retail outlet in order to get the bonus track. If you purchased a digital copy through one venue, it wouldn’t play on others.
Instead of opening the gates and making the consumer’s experience easier, the music industry embraced proprietary ideals. If you wanted one thing, you had to purchase three others to get it.
Yesterday, Star Trek fans everywhere reacted will glee and anger when CBS announced that they would put out a new Trek series for television in 2017. Glee, because we all love Trek and, although there are a number of enjoyable fan-produced web series, having something professional from the creators who own the license is something we’ve wished for for a long time. Anger, because the announcement included the information that it will only be distributed on CBS’s own streaming service, which is $6 a month.
I write positive futures, not dystopias. In my worlds, goods are manufactured with pride and quality, not planned obsolescence. Technology is designed for maximum integration and compatibility. If a consumer purchases an item, they can be confident that they will be able to enjoy it for years, perhaps even installing upgrades or improvements, but they won’t have to replace it before its time just because someone else wants to make a buck.
When I self-pub’d my urban fantasy novella The House on Paladin Court, I had the choice of making it exclusive to a single venue. I didn’t do that. It goes against what I believe about integration and availability. It’s available at a variety of e-book outlets, and will soon be available in print.
I don’t have the ability to offer a universal copy of my book. I wish I did. I wish you could purchase it once, then read it on any device. Maybe some day, that will happen.
We’re not waiting for the tech. We have the tech.
We’re waiting for the willingness of the distributors to let go of their proprietary ways, and embrace the inter-connectivity that would make the world a much better place.
So, How Are Those Writing Goals Going?
Judging by that weirdly rambling rant above, maybe I shouldn’t add to the WIP until the cold medicine wears off…
I’m at 4,612 words on my NaNoNovel. That’s just barely on track. Day one was great, day two was low. I haven’t started writing yet tonight…my usual writing time is after ten or eleven in the evening, working until about one in the morning. So, the word-count part of my weekly goals is right on.
My biggest issue lately has been the writing-related chores getting in the way of actual writing. With the start of NaNoWriMo, that’s been much better. I’m busy. Very busy. I should probably finish up this post and get back to work.
So, a question for writers:
If you could make your book universally available on any device with a single purchase, would you?