The end of an era for music?

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The new vinyl?

I grew up in the age of vinyl and the single, album and EP – words that probably mean nothing to current teenagers, but rather defines my age group. At college we all shared music by recording each others albums onto cassette (which got surprisingly good before its demise). We then embraced the CD and the start of the age of digital music. I was still happy with the CD, it gave me a ‘hard copy’ of the music that I could do with as I wished. It is probably an age thing, but I still can’t bring myself to download music from iTunes (unless it’s free) – partly because of the lack of a ‘hard copy’ and partly due to the sample rate – the quality is really not as good.

I do however accept that I am a dying breed – the download generation is with us – and it is even a religion now!

So perhaps it’s surprising that 2011 was the first year that digital music sales surpassed physical media sales. But, it’s finally happened. Mark it down: 2011 was the year that the world is officially a digital music consumer – and I am consigned to the ‘has been’ consumer for music!

A report by Billboard has revealed that 50.3 percent of all music sales in 2011 were digitally purchased, up 8 percent from last year. Sure, it was only a matter of time, but if I am honest I had assumed that the digital music revolution toppled sales of CDs years ago.

The major influence in all this? It is clear that Apple, Steve Jobs, and the revolutionary iPod completely turned the industry on its head. Napster may have started the revolution, but Apple’s iPod was the death knell for physical media. But I would suggest that this evolution in music consumption is far from over. Streaming music through applications like Spotify and iCloud, potentially, could really take us into a period where we finally have access to history’s entire library of music for a monthly fee – something we accept for TV access already.

That’s still a big leap for me – I still love my CD’s, but it is the start of a trend that will without doubt slowly envelop even me.

Our ‘wonderful’ Post Office

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At this time of the year we all become beholden to the man in the red van – not the man in the red suit (that joy leaves us at an early age). I am of course referring to Postman Pat – or whatever name you local postman goes by.

a common view for us all by the end of Christmas

I will hold my hand up here and confirm that I am not a fan of our once wonderful post office – I believe that the service they provide is poor and they need a good ‘kick up the arse’ to get things back on track. Unfortunately this is unlikely with the current dynamic between employer and unions so I would not be at all surprised to see the demise of the Post Office in the UK in the form that we all currently know over the next few years.

The reason for my current rant is related to their inability to manage when things get busy at this time of the year. I have had to make a number of visits to the Incinerator Road sorting office over the last few weeks to collect parcels. Now this is not something I have a particular problem with, both my wife and I work, so there is no one at home to receive these packages (although we have had ‘you weren’t at home’ cards through the door when we have been at home – but that is another story).

The changing face of retailing has had a direct impact upon the Post Office – or more precisely it would appear Amazon have. Everyone orders a massive amount of stuff on-line now and the Post Office appear to ‘deliver’ the lions share for these retailers. Now on the basis that many households are not at home when the mail is now delivered (later and later in the day by my experience), then most of the packages will need to be collected – and this is where the system starts to fail – badly!

Incinerator Road is a fairly small industrial unit – a sorting office with a small yard and many surrounding small businesses. But, it is also a pickup point for most of Nottingham’s  parcels that have not been delivered (certainly for south of the river). Consequently when busy (and even when it’s not) parking is a total nightmare – we are talking maybe 4 spaces for pickup – at this time of year it is a war zone!

I can see this having two effects;

Firstly people will become even less enchanted by the Post Office (difficult to believe I know) and this can have only one long-term effect!

Secondly this poor service will make the likes of Amazon more to an alternative delivery system ( they threatened it when the post office workers were on strike)

The upshot? The end of the post office parcels service as we know it.

So come on Post Office, sort your lives out or you really are going to become a thing of the past. Perhaps a bit of flexibility from your staff might go a long way?

The ‘E Book’ revolution

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The news this week that ebook sales have now overtaken paperback sales on Amazon’s US site do not come as a huge surprise.  Amazon’s Kindle 2 is so light and so cheap that it’s easy to see why people have rushed to buy it – and this form of ‘book’ has been available in the USA for longer than in Europe.

Beyond the device itself, Amazon has also rolled out Kindle apps for various devices, ensuring that people who have an iPad but not a Kindle can still use their books. Once you’re into the Kindle ecosystem, Amazon locks you in tightly (sound familiar?) – just as Apple does with its iTunes/iPod system.

It’s so easy to buy from Amazon’s store and the books are so cheap that it’s not worth the effort of going elsewhere (and that includes iTunes).

The general view is that the ebook market is nowhere near peaking and the expectation is that we can expect to see more and more readers move away from printed books and pick up ebooks instead. But I don’t think that will mean the death of the printed book.

There are some who prefer printed books – I for one do not feel that a Kindle or iPad would feel ‘right’ to read a book on. Plus I like having shelves filled with books collected and read over the years. To me the physical form of the book is almost as important as the words it contains.

Perhaps the way forwards would be for publishers to bundle ebooks with printed ones – in much the same way that film studios bundle DVDs with digital copies of films? I have to admit to being one of the ‘old school’ who still but CD’s and then copy them to iTunes as well. I like to have the ‘hard copy ‘ of music as well.

The printed book will survive, it has however reached a ‘tipping point’ from which there is no return.