Thursday, March 25, 2010

Two More Years, She Said

What kinds of things do you want to inspect personally and bring home yourself, and what would you just as soon purchase online?

A quart of milk, a bouquet of daffodils, or a bag of frozen peas would generally go in the first category, I think. You can buy them online if you want to, but for more trouble and expense than stopping by the grocery store.

Many personal items are things I’d prefer to inspect in person. Too often, clothes ordered from a catalog or website seem to be the wrong shade or cut, after all, when they arrive. And in spite of the great deals at places like Zappos or eBags, they, too, sell items I would rather touch and see in three dimensions before making a purchase.

And (unless you’re buying something electronic which you can download) there’s a bit of a moral aspect to this kind of thing. Do we really want to opt for purchases that are shipped half way around the world, cheap for the consumer but expensive for the environment, over doing without or buying local?

Sometimes I’ll browse in a regular store and then buy online. It’s nice to have that option. I know bookstores and libraries won’t be going away anytime soon, so for books I go those places first. I’m quick to look, slow to purchase.

But I wonder how long we’ll have that option with the music industry. I was thinking about replacing some of the cassette tapes I’ve worn out with CDs. Yes, I know that statement marks me as pretty old fashioned on several accounts! But I still want something physical, particularly with my computer in the last year of its life; downloading music and burning my own CDs or other backups seems an inferior solution, compared with just getting music on CD.

My last online purchase of a used CD was muffed by an Amazon seller who instead sent me a paperback book called “Astrology on the Light Side of the Brain,” intended for a Wisconsin woman named Katherine. Oops. Sorry Katherine. I'll put it back in the mail.

So I went shopping. And found, well, hardly anything. Nobody seemed to carry more than a minimal selection. I wasn’t entirely surprised, but I struck up a conversation with a clerk and asked her for the industry scoop.

“They’re telling us to give CDs two more years,” she said. “Smaller sellers have stopped carrying them altogether, and larger sellers can keep them only if they sell them at a loss.”

I think I’ll keep buying CDs – at a modest rate – while I can get them. When they become passé I’ll tuck them away in the antique buffet where we store our LPs. Still play those sometimes, too. Do you?

No comments: