Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

Digital Is Killing The Economy


In my house I have things I’ve bought over many years: furniture, clothes, devices, and media—vinyl records, cassette tapes, CDs, video tapes, DVDs, and books (many books).

A good number of these items (furniture and media) were purchased used, and I have resold some of these. However, media resale is drying up (or already has in the case of tapes).

This is how the digital revolution impacts me. While the CDs still have some value, the tapes (cassette and video) have none. And it’s only a question of time before the DVDs and books go the way of vinyl—a small coterie of hardcore collectors.

I haven’t calculated how much resale value I’ve lost from those tapes, nor how much I’m likely to lose if I don’t sell the CDs soon. But it’s not just the lost resale value of the tapes.

By keeping tapes too long, I’ve lost the opportunity to sell the tape recorders (4!). I kept these devices, so I could transfer the tapes to other media. I kept planning to do this. Didn’t happen.

Yet this post isn’t about me or the value I’ve lost as digital revolutionizes everything. I still buy physical books with the hope of reselling them. I can’t do the same with e-books.

Physical books can be bought and sold until they fall apart. Every one of my tiny transactions is a miniscule turn of the big economic crank. Multiplied by many millions and it makes a real difference. Not so with e-books.

Every digital product is an economic dead end. We don’t own them; we pay to use them. Their economic value is only a single transaction. Digital products have no economic future.

Every time the sale of a digital product replaces the sale of a physical product, it kills all resale transactions and our economic future shrinks. Even multiplied by many millions this may not seem a significant threat. But it’s not just products, it’s also jobs. Next week.

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