Is there more to life than the Internet, music, movies, books, and apps?
Amazon released the Kindle Fire not too long ago, and a quick glance at its product page lets you know exactly what it’s offering:
“Magazines in Rich Color”
“100,000 Movies and TV Shows” (on demand and commercial-free)
“Your (my?) Favorite Apps and Games”
“Millions of Books” (emphasis added, although capitalization was not)
“Ultra-fast web browsing”
And this makes me happy, because it gives me everything I’d ever want. Because when I’m not browsing the internet, I’m listening to music. And when I can focus for half-a-sec, I’m watching television. And if I can stop the music for 2 hours, I’m streaming a movie. And if my attention span allows and if the Internet cuts out, I’ll read a book. More likely a chapter.
I can’t remember the last time I consumed something other than the Internet, videos, audio, apps or digital books, in descending order of prevalence in my life. I will, and people on the whole, will partake endlessly in whatever makes them happy, and for the affluent people who can afford a tablet, smartphone, or both, these are the things they partake in. But joy does not completely explain our habits. Our habits are driven by the joy they bring us and by how convenient they are to obtain.
Convenience is Wikipedia beat physical encyclopedias. It’s why Netflix beat Blockbuster, and it’s why Netflix streaming is beating Netflix’s mail service. People will do what they enjoy and what is easy. That’s why I’m going to end this paragraph here, because readers despise meandering arguments.
Amazon is privy to this knowledge, and has a Netflix app to prove it. So does my Wii. So does Apple’s iPad. And the curious thing about the iPad is that if you trace it back to its roots, all the way back to the iPod and iTunes, you’ll find the birth of music, movies, books and apps.
We can all remember the first iPod: a slab of metal with a killer interface. All of a sudden, carrying multiple CDs felt bulky and cumbersome. Stick the music in your iPod, stick that in your pocket. You were set for the next year. Next, we see Apple strike new ground in all areas of media. Soon, Apple will define the typical consumer’s world by cutting deals with Hollywood to bring us movies, deals with book publishers to bring us literature. In a decade’s time, the consumer’s whole world had been conveniently digitized.
And yet, so much was lost. MP3 sound quality can never reach the sonic depths of AAC, found on CDs. Apple’s iBook store has a paltry (albeit glossy) stock of novels and non-fiction. In the end, everything is very convenient, but everything is not there. Netflix and Amazon On-Demand are even more convenient than the iTunes Store. They let users watch videos instantly. You don’t even have to wait for the video to download to start watching, like you have to in iTunes. It streams directly from the figurative “cloud”. Sure, the selection is worse (one of my recommended videos on Netflix is “Titanic 2”) and the video quality suffers, but damn, if it isn’t convenient.
Let’s take a couple of steps back, to before iTunes’ music, movies, apps, and books. No, I’m not going to act “all grandpa” on you and suggest we go back to our fields to play with hoops and sticks. Just think back to five years ago, when things were a little less convenient. No, we couldn’t carry thousands of book in a slab of plastic like we can now, but we could carry one book, and focus on it intently. Peel back the pages and dissect their meaning, because we took the time to do it.
Sure, it was always a hassel to plan movie night, but at least we watched movies together. When’s the last time you had your friends over to watch a movie on the couch? I remember going to my girlfriend-to-be’s house and playing footsie with her while we watched “House” on her couch. Why do I even own a couch anymore? I do all of my TV-watching on Hulu, in a chair made for one, with my headphones on.
It is without a doubt easier to find edible media in 2011 than it was in 2006. But I don’t think we were less happy back then. I’d venture to say we were happier.