Your Pile and You: Has Digital Distribution Taken Something Away?

I have a huge Steam library. I have an ever-growing Kindle library. I subscribe to Netflix. I am an Amazon Prime member.

Amongst those four services, I have what amounts to a huge volume of rather unlimited entertainment options. And yet... I find myself struggling to find motivation to exploit them as they were meant to be exploited.

I don't remember having this problem before. The content hasn't changed, just the means of delivery.

Is there something to be said for the experience of being a consumer in a physical world? There's a huge difference between walking into a store (be it a Target, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Gamestop, Barnes & Noble, whatever), finding a product on the shelf, having it in a shopping bag and savoring the anticipation of when you can actually enjoy it yourself, savoring the feel of the packaging, the joy of opening it for the first time and discovering what's in the box, the smells, etc., and just clicking the "Deliver to my Kindle/Steam Library/Add to Queue" button.

Do we lose something in digital distribution, and thus create our piles more readily? Do we not differentiate between ownership and availability anymore, since most digital content is just a transaction away? Is there something to be said for the value added to our entertainment by the element of scarcity that is rapidly vanishing, be it a real concept or not?

Or am I alone in these feelings?

Having added like 50 things to my Instant Queue in Netflix that I've yet to touch... I can see that. I would certainly never have bought half of the movies or shows saved there for later consumption simply as a matter of not knowing if I'm getting my moneys worth out of them.

The whole buying a physical item for entertainment is such a blip on the radar with respect to music, movies, and television.

Books in the industrial age are of such poor quality-industrial paper is just crap compared to the hand made paper of long ago, you will be lucky if they last 30 years, let alone long enough to pass on to another generation.

I certainly have none of those feelings sorry.. I actually find it inconvenient to buy anything physical anymore.. can't stand the need to store it.. take care of it.. or flat out have to wait/drive/stand in line. Life is busy.. time is short.. and I find the relaxation of watching something streamed..reading/consuming something digital equal in all ways to the old physical model.

My first inclination was to say that I tend to buy more things digitally, but I always bought a lot of media. I had shelves and shelves of books, and while I've slimmed that down somewhat, I still have lots of books.

I think having too many options can make it more difficult to enjoy things, though, as the motivation becomes finishing a book or movie to move on to the next book or movie.

TheGameguru wrote:

I certainly have none of those feelings sorry.. I actually find it inconvenient to buy anything physical anymore.. can't stand the need to store it.. take care of it.. or flat out have to wait/drive/stand in line. Life is busy.. time is short.. and I find the relaxation of watching something streamed..reading/consuming something digital equal in all ways to the old physical model.

+1.

And this weekend I'm selling 90% of my books and using the proceeds to buy an eReader.

There is a primal satisfaction in hunting and gathering that digital distribution doesn't always feed.

I don't think it's digital distribution that's taking away the element of scarcity, it's that good games are less scarce. More and more good games are getting put out each year, and they fall in price very quickly, so even if we were buying physical boxes instead of Steam codes, we'd still have a massive backlog. The ability to buy games on our own helps break the illusion of scarcity as well. When I was a kid I could hope for maybe 1 new game a year for Christmas, and it lasted me all year. I admit I still try to follow that pattern (buy games during a Steam sale, play them until the next sale), but instead of one game to last the year, I can buy a dozen during a Steam sale.

Overall, I love the move to digital. I deplore collecting physical objects. I can see how someone can miss the small thrill of buying that new "thing" for the first time. But how many times were you burned by that bad book or terrible album you were so happy to buy yesterday?

I do however feel like I've accumulated way more digital things than I would have if they were physical.

The "problem" I keep coming back to every once in a while is what I call 'media glut.' Whenever I have free time, I get to choose between countless books, movies, tv shows, podcasts, video games, news articles, magazines, or comics to consume (the multi-pile!). Every once in a while, I actually get overwhelmed with the choice and therefore choose to do none of those. I've come to accept that it's my brain's way of telling me to shut down. In those situations I take a nap or go for bike ride.

AndrewA wrote:
TheGameguru wrote:

I certainly have none of those feelings sorry.. I actually find it inconvenient to buy anything physical anymore.. can't stand the need to store it.. take care of it.. or flat out have to wait/drive/stand in line. Life is busy.. time is short.. and I find the relaxation of watching something streamed..reading/consuming something digital equal in all ways to the old physical model.

+1.

And this weekend I'm selling 90% of my books and using the proceeds to buy an eReader.

This. I haven't felt deprived by suddenly having access to more stuff. If anything, it brings me back to my childhood, when I'd take out 10 books at a time from the library and devour them by the end of two weeks, only to see a nearly infinite supply of more unread titles staring back at me.

If anything I feel annoyed now when something I want isn't available via digital distribution.

My Kindle Paperwhite is just such an immensely better reading experience than a paperback or hard cover book that when I find something I want to read that isn't available for the Kindle, I generally just won't bother reading it.

Most of my movie rentals now are via Amazon. It's generally about $1.50 more expensive, but it saves me the drive to the video rental store today and the drive back tomorrow to return the disc, so I figure it's a fair tradeoff.

As far as games go it's Steam all the way, unless I'm super hyped and want a collector's edition, but even then you won't catch me in a Gamestop; Amazon release day delivery for me.

When the brick and mortar stores go the way of the dodo, I won't miss em at all.

TheGameguru wrote:

I certainly have none of those feelings sorry.. I actually find it inconvenient to buy anything physical anymore.. can't stand the need to store it.. take care of it.. or flat out have to wait/drive/stand in line. Life is busy.. time is short.. and I find the relaxation of watching something streamed..reading/consuming something digital equal in all ways to the old physical model.

Same here, there's very few cool items that are still worth having physically like big picture or photo books, art stuff, collector's editions, etc. But for regular stuff, digital's cool.