Down with Physical Media!

Jay Gatsby was known for, amongst other things, being deceitful with a library of books that he had never read. After reading this scene from The Great Gatsby, I too can remember a time that I had purchased the beautiful 10-volume set of History of Mathematics, from a library’s nickle book sale, for the sole purpose of looking good on my bookshelf. One shelf below, I could recollect a pretty incredible collection of DVDs that was started right when DVDs became cool—around 1997—which are now breathing their last breath of relevance.

Media has a limited life cycle before it is quickly replaced by newer media. Much like how my DVDs replaced my VHS, and CDs replaced my compact cassettes—in fact, the last CD I purchased was in 1999, because it was much easier to have an MP3 library (and this was before portable music players).

We have come to an interesting point in our lives—our media is being replaced by the anti-media. Similar to how the Internet is competing with the printed word, digital bytes compete directly with physical digital media containers.

AppleTVAfter installing my first Apple TV this past December, I realized that my shelves are going to be very lonely much sooner than I thought. Not only does Apple TV play my movies and music off of my computer (wirelessly, might I add) but, through services such as iTunes, I am able to buy and rent movies whenever the mood strikes my fancy. I don’t need to go to a store in hopes of them having the movie or album, nor do I need to order it on-line and wait for it to be mailed—I get the content I want, when I want it.

The movie rental industry was first shaken up by NetFlix who would eliminate the rental fees and time/distance problems created by physical movie rental stores. To compete, these physical stores (i.e., Blockbuster), started to mail DVDs and offer a “return service” so people could drop off the rented DVDs at their stores. In 2004, Redbox was created as a viable rental option by placing vending machine style units at high-traffic areas (gas stations, etc) and offered an affordable rental plan ($1.00/day). reported, on December 26th, that it sold more eBooks for the Kindle than physical books. Although the actual number is not revealed, it is interesting to see all fronts (books, music, and video) are making a very quick push to be digital.

Today, all we need is a hard drive (and a back-up hard drive to prevent against file corruption or data loss) and means to connect to that hard drive. If F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s wrote The Great Gatsby today instead of it 1925, what would Jay Gatsby have on his shelves? How does this affect child and parent interaction in education?