The move to digital media has been a slow and steady march over the years. What began with digital pictures and the ability to download songs has exploded to include movies, games, newspapers, books, and much more. How this digital content has changed a lot over the years with many different delivery methods evolving. While some love the convenience offered by digital, many still want the option of a physical good.
Before we look at a few different ways that digital content is delivered, let’s look at one switch to digital that many people feel very differently about. When you think of a book you get a very clear image in your head. The feel, shape, even smell of books has existed for hundreds of years and is something loved by many. When it comes to the functionality of books, the digital has a many advantages. They can be carried around on a phone, tablet, or any reader. This means you can fit hundreds of books in the same space that 1 single physical book would take up in your bag. Besides just portability, digital books allow you to search through the text, write notes, increase or decrease font size, and they tend to have a slightly lower price. Yet even with all these benefits I, like many others, still prefer the physical version for no real reason. I just like books. Maybe it’s just because I grew up with the physical version.
The change from physical to digital is most noticeable when it comes to forms or written media like books, magazines, or newspapers. When it comes to music or video, people don’t tend to hold on to their nostalgia of the physical as strongly. Maybe this has to do with the content itself already being digital but put on a physical disc or tape.
A big part of digital is how you get access to the music or book, and how much you’re paying for it. For a long time the internet has had this sense that things online should be free. With tools like torrents and file sharing sites, it certainly is possible to get almost anything for free. However, this is a huge problem for content providers, and they’ve created many different formats to monetize their content. There are really three main payment methods available to customers that can all be seen from digital music marketplaces. First up you the classic pay per item model that you can see on markets like iTunes. Here you pay for a license that allows you to own that item. Next you have a subscription plan, such as Spotify, where you pay a monthly fee to have access to an entire library of content. However, unlike purchasing the license to individual items, you don’t own any of the content you consume. Then there are free platforms, such as Pandora, that allow you to listen to for free, but you get ads played every so often.
By going digital there are often less parties between the customer and the content creator. Sometimes this results in lower prices, as there are much lower distribution costs, but it’s not always the case. Video games, for example, are priced the same as their physical copies. So while price is often a benefit, I see the convenience of buying a digital product once, and then being able to access it from anywhere as the main draw. The move to digital is unavoidable, and once everyone has high speed internet, I think we’ll see even more content delivered digitally.