technologyThe Beloved and I have had many an amusing conversation about how we would explain the technology of our youths to the children in our lives. I think they will find the computer mouse hilariously quaint, and the notion that if you wanted to phone somebody and they were not home, that was it will I am sure shock and horrify them.

Lately, I have been wondering if the notion of purchasing media and having a copy to ‘own’ might be going the way of the dodo bird too. We each have our little hobbies; when the Beloved is messing with his baseball cards and carefully looking up the stats online, I am invariably messing with my Calibre library—adding books, updating metadata and importing pretty cover art so I can browse my ebooks as if they were a physical shelf. I enjoy it and I get satisfaction out of ‘owning’ so many books…

But I used to get satisfaction out of owning movies too. And when the whole TV series DVD boom was in full swing, the notion of being able to watch the entire run of Buffy or Star Trek—whenever I wanted to!—was revolutionary. And now? When I moved in with him. I brought with me my Netflix subscription, and have never looked back. And ironically, among the hundreds of available series in the TV show section are Star Trek and Buffy…

So, now I have been reading news stories about Oyster, the new ‘Netflix for books’ app that was released to much hype. I know it’s not 100% there yet—users have complained that there is no Android version, and not all publishers are on board with the content yet. But it is such a great idea. And I wonder if the tiny children in our lives will grow up with this model being ever more prominent. If you could access the books you wanted to read any time you wanted them, why would you care about owning it or not? Is the idea that their parents used to value having a file to keep for themselves going to seem quaint to them?

Not everyone has the same entertainment tastes, of course. But these services can be remarkably cost-effective for a household. I don’t care about music, so I will let him pay the $20 if he wants it for the Sirius radio subscription. I could spend my $20 on Oyster and Netflix and be good to go. And we’ve each spent less than the cost of a single hardback to do it.

I think these services will grow and refine themselves, just as Netflix has done, just as Pandora has done, just as Sirius got people to listen to radio again, and pay for it to boot. And I think the kids will find the idea of ‘downloading’ to be as quant as the idea of driving to a store to rent a plastic disk.