Buy a CD? Buy a Book? How Old Fashioned!
A few weeks ago when I was preparing my opening session for our E-marketing E-mersion conference, I had planned to include a section about the future of the personal ownership of content, or lack thereof. I went down the path, but ultimately pulled it out of my talk, having gotten cross-eyed looks from from my staff. I also thought that it was just too wacky a notion to put forth quite yet, because there are so few early examples of it.
First, let me lay out my thinking about what "it" is. It’s clear to me that eventually, when the connection between the Internet and some mobile device that plays audio and video is truly seamless, nearly free and completely ubiquitous, that the idea of owning a CD or a movie, or even a track of music will become obsolete.
Rather, companies like Amazon, Google, Yahoo and others will have vast storage databases of essentially all content; all books, all movies, all videos and music. It won’t be free to download, but what you’ll do is sign up for an annual license and then you’ll have an "all-you-can-eat" experience. (This is the current business model for Napster, if anyone is paying any attention.)
Why would I have to "own" a CD if I could call it up whenever and wherever I wanted? Doesn’t what I just described provide the very same value that we now associate with owning something? We have it – we control it and we can get it whenever we want. So if Amazon can deliver that to me, for less cost than the annual price I spend on music now, with more convenience and more portability, where’s the value in ownership? That’s my thinking.
So, now to the point. This week we saw Amazon release its Kindle book reader. At first, one thinks of all the other failed book readers out there, until you really focus on what the device really is. Essentially, it’s a wireless content machine that connects to Amazon.com. Sure, you can "download" 200 books and have them with you at all times. But the buzzer went off in my head when I heard Jeff Bezos say something like "if you download a book and delete it, and later want it back, we store it for you in your Amazon.com account."
This is the beginning of the future of non-ownership I’m talking about. Aside from the familiarity of owning a physical book, is there any reason to "buy" a book if I could have access to any of millions of books per year for a license fee of $199/year? You have to believe that Bezos is thinking in that direction. And I read rumors that Amazon will soon start streaming movies directly to your computer.
I recently walked by my former local Blockbuster, which has been closed for a year, and it now seems like a dinosaur. How long will it be before I we say the same about Barnes & Noble?