I used to own more books, by weight, than all my other possessions combined, including my car.
Some people would probably salivate at that idea, but I found it smothering. I find almost all physical possessions smothering, in fact. My constant goal is to keep the total volume of everything I own able to fit in the trunk of a car (minus the car itself, of course). With three kids that’s impossible, but at least my stuff still fits in that space.
However, I love reading. In fact, I love media in general – books, music and movies all bring me tremendous joy. My life was therefore enormously improved by things like Netflix, the Kindle, and Spotify. These things allow me to access all the things I want without the physical burden. It’s wonderful.
Not only is it wonderful to avoid the physical anchor, but those things also allow me access to vast and varied quantities of media that I simply would never have seen otherwise. I’m old enough to have listened to music well before MP3s and Napster, let alone iTunes and the like. I had cassettes and CDs. I had VHS tapes. I had… well, books.
Even then, I hated them. I wanted what was on them, but collecting the objects themselves always felt like buying the bricks to my own prison. Now, I can listen to ten new bands in an afternoon, I read 5 or 6 times as many books as I did before I got a Kindle, and I can check out movies I’d never heard of and find great hidden gems.
All those devices and services lowered my opportunity cost for media consumption. In turn they’ve also lowered the opportunity cost for content creators to do so, since it’s easier now to distribute what you’ve created to a wide audience. And traditional gatekeepers are losing power – it’s easy to self-publish on Amazon, putting your music on Spotify is cheaper than pressing CDs, and streaming services make their own shows and movies outside of Hollywood. I love it all.
One thing it does make me think about – I wonder how it will all evolve from here. I can’t wait to see – I have tremendous faith in human progress, so I have no doubt it’ll be good. But someday some other model will be even better than Spotify and will thus put Spotify out of business, and I wonder what it will be.
Music, books, movies – these are the thoughts and feelings of our collective selves, and consuming them is communion with humanity. It’s exposure to a vast assemblage of minds, and I enjoy every second of it. I love that I can do it more efficiently now than ten or twenty years ago, and I look forward with great anticipation to the world twenty years from now, when I can enjoy it even more.