Essays on Technology and Culture

In Defense of Physical Media

Right now, nobody seems to remember any of those upshots. In fact, people don’t seem to be just tired of the CD; it feels as if they’re actively calling for its demise. When vinyl began dying off in the early Nineties, many people, me included, mourned its passing on many levels. But we didn’t dance in the streets that it was in its death throes, the way so many seem to be doing these days with the CD. A friend recently called to ask what he should do with his shelves of discs, since many of his friends were strongly urging him to chuck them. That’s right: People were actually saying he should throw his CDs in the garbage. (You can recycle them, you know.)

David Browne – “In Defense of the CD”

The CD itself is a pretty crappy format—“Perfect Sound Forever” my foot. A worn out vinyl record still sounds like music. A scratched up CD sounds like glitchy noise, which might be good if you’re into that sort of thing. I still buy CDs, though, along with vinyl, and the rare cassette tape. Vinyl can often be dear, and the penchant of vinyl producers to go with fancy colored vinyl and other various gee-gaws doesn’t help.

There’s value in a physical format for media, even if the CDs I buy often just end up collecting dust on a shelf next to my desk while I listen to the MP3 rips. The practical advantage of this, however, is that I never have to want for getting my music to play. A poor Internet connection will never keep a local MP3 file from playing back perfectly. You can’t stream music on the subway.