I finally gave in and took out a subscription to Spotify. I’ve probably listened to more new music in the past couple of weeks than I have in the previous couple of years.
I haven’t really regarded myself as a big music fan since my teens, when I was obsessed with 70s rock. (Well, it was the 70s.) Even so I have somehow over the years acquired well 40 Gb of MP3s from iTunes, Amazon and my old CD collection.
If you combine this with the 40 GB plus of RPG PDFs I have acquired over the years, my gigabytes and gigabytes of photographs from a couple of decades of travelling with a digital camera, and bunch of other stuff, you can see why buying a laptop with a 128 GB SSD would be an unwise decision for me. When you take into account the space the operating system uses, the two or three gigs of files I keep in Dropbox, there would be around negative four GB of space left.
Yet now I can see a strange new digital world opening up in front of me. Spotify means I don’t have to keep any music on my computer and I can have access to more songs than Iever had before. Netflix provides me with access to TV shows and movies.
And oddly enough Microsoft Office has left me with my PDFs in the Cloud. I am an Office 365 subscriber and it comes with a Terrabyte of online storage. My PDF game collection lives there now.
Suddenly all these small cheap computers with 32 or 64 Gb of storage (and Chromebooks too) make sense. You don’t need vast hard drives for your gigantic digital collections if you stream them from the cloud. It’s been oddly liberating. My cheapo Windows tablets and netbooks are suddenly a lot more useful. I suspect I am finally using them as they were meant to be used.
Of course, it’s not perfect. World of Warcraft still takes up 30 plus GB on the drives of my main machines. I suspect the day is coming though when even game streaming will be mainstream. You can already see harbingers of this with tablets like the nVidia Shield.
I can see the impact of the bits on the atoms of my physical existence. I buy far fewer print books since I got a Kindle. The ones I usually do purchase are hardbacks that I want to stick on my shelves or really old paperbacks of which there are no digital editions yet. This has been a real boon. I say this as a man who shipped tons of books internationally the last time he moved house and that was only about a third of my library. I have not bought a single DVD since subscribing to Netflix.
It struck me that the rise of the uncluttering/simplification movement parallels the rise of digital goods. It’s easy enough now to keep your shelves empty and your mind full of books and music and movies. I feel a certain nostalgia for the print books. The rest I do not miss.
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