We all know that technology has made certain things obsolete, especially when it comes to personal entertainment. I have a VCR, but I haven't hooked it up for at least three moves. Book stores are suffering because of Amazon and the idea of physical books may suffer even more as e-books become more and more popular. Of course, the rise of iPods and the inclusion of MP3 players in phones have made CDs less important, to the point that CDs now sit in a tiny, disorganized section at big box stores or book stores (for as long as they still exist). For the most part, the record store has gone the way of the video store. There are still a few here or there and the best of those is one I visited today, the Mecca of music stores, Amoeba Music in San Francisco.
I wanted to go because it's in the Haight, which is just a fun little area to walk around and people-watch (to see them try to recapture an era that quickly became a mockery of itself forty years ago), but also because it's a site to behold, as you can see in the pictures on the website. Thousands upon thousands of CDs, a good amount of vinyl, a nice video area with a huge foreign section. It would be fun to leaf through the rows of albums, seeing if I can find anything cool to pick up. I recognized that I could get anything through iTunes, but I grew up with record stores and I was pretty sure that I still valued the concept of holding a physical product in my hand. Sure, I've probably bought three physical CDs in the last two or three years (two Eminem albums and a special edition of the Ben Folds/Nick Hornby collaboration), but I was holding on to nostalgia, if nothing else.
So I began walking through the aisles, looking at the CDs and it hit me immediately. Immediately. There was absolutely no reason for me to ever buy another CD again. It wasn't some huge epiphany. It wasn't something I had to work out in my head. It was immediate and obvious. Anything I bought would be just as, if not more, expensive as/than anything I could buy on iTunes or Amazon MP3 and I'd just have to then take the disc home and load it into iTunes so I could get it into my phone. So instead of looking around to buy something, I treated the store like a museum. Took a picture of the Green Jello album. Flipped through the Ben Folds and They Might Be Giants stacks. Checked out Bon Iver at a listening station to see if I'd want to buy it on iTunes (verdict: yuck). I guess that's progress for you. I didn't lament not wanting to buy a CD because it would just seem more inconvenient than downloading the album. I just accepted it as a universal reality that buying CDs is done. And then I tweeted about it and put it on Facebook while I was standing there.
Epilogue: My quick-thinking wife actually pointed out a reason to buy a CD. Unlike a Best Buy or a Target, Amoeba had used CDs that they sold at a lower price. So, for example, I think I had Flood on cassette or a disc that I couldn't find, so we picked up a copy for $4, much cheaper than I can get it for on iTunes. I also grabbed a couple of used DVDs (the brilliant Korean film, Save the Green Planet, and the entire series of Da Ali G Show; $9.99 each!), so we did buy some stuff there.