Monday, January 5, 2009

The Sad Tale of Shrinking CD Sales: Will Books be Next?

There was a sad little tale in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about the decline in music CD sales. Seems that sales declined for the seventh time in the last eight years. Even more devastating was the fact that sales declined a full 20% over the last year.decline graph

The Journal states that the industry has ben decimated by illicit online downloading.

Wait a minute!  I haven't bought a CD in several years but I have legal access to each and every song that I have downloaded in those years. 

It is hard to fathom the stupidity inherent in that statement.  I guess the writer doesn't get out much.  If he did, he would see that there are a whole lot of places that allow you to buy the song of your choice for 99 cents. Perfectly legal and legit -- not illicit in any regard.

I don't know about you but I doubt I will ever buy a packaged CD again.  I mean why?  I have a legal Napster account that lets me listen to (and carry around) almost anything I want for one low monthly subscription fee.  And if I want to burn it on a CD and make my own mix I can buy the song for 99 cents.

Besides, everyone knows, that on every CD there are two or three songs you love, several you tolerate and if you you are really lucky only one or two you hate. 

Back in the good old days, when music came on records, it was too much hassle to get up and risk scratching the vinyl to skip one of those songs you hated.  You just suffered through it. 

Tapes were a little better, but still a hassle.  You could at least fast forward.  And then came CD players and even better CD players with remote control.  Once little press of the button and the song was skipped forever.  You still had to pay for, but at least you didn't have to listen to it.

That was the thing that finally convinced me to replace many of my tapes with CDs.  Mind you, I had replaced records with cassettes -- very costly and was really hesitant to do it all over again with CD.

And finally MP3 downloads.  I actually adopted this technology pretty quickly once I figured out I could subscribe to a service, carry one tiny little device to the gym and hear hundreds of my favorite songs. 

Does it get much better than this?  I can listen to almost anything for my monthly fee and decide what I like. Then I can decide what tracks I like well enough to want on a CD and I can burn them at will. Mostly there aren't many.

Most of the songs I buy and burn to CD are presents for people I love.  People like my friend Laurie who is a technophobe or my mother and her sisters. 

So what does all this have to do with eBooks? 

Well, publishers (and some authors) have a huge level of paranoia about piracy.  All of the hassle with DRM (90% of our support issues are because of DRM issues) are a direct result of this particular paranoia.  I am sure that many of them read the article and saw it as vindication for their position. 

Unfortunately, this particular vindication is patently absurd.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'll continue to buy CDs until I can download lossless encoded music. At least I can control how I encode using flac or whatever codec I choose. I suppose for most music fidelity no longer matters, if you're listening on crappy ipod white buds you wouldn't hear the difference anyway.

I hope as portable players increase in capacity we'll see a return to audio quality as an alternative to the 'how many songs can I cram on this damn box' attitude. Hopefully also heralding a return to proper production values of music again as well.

Or may be I'm just getting old and need to buy that turntable I've been thinking about for some time to savour the vinyl warmth...

Agreed conclusion of the article though is naive.



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