Tomorrow to Come

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(summer soliloquy)

Who could tell
Who could wonder why
When summer passes through me
Like tears on hazy honey eyes
When it floats away, like those dreams on the big open sea
And life is simply another
Lonely menagerie
Things will never be the same
As they were before
Quiet songs on the record player
Spinning old songs of anti-war
Kissing in the driveway
Before you head back home
Silent cravings felt
Sitting in our separate rooms
But one of these days
Everything will finally stop moving slow
And finally it will feel like
Time has a flow
And tomorrow will come
‘At long last’ we’ll cry
And I’ll sleep next you
As the world goes by.

Physical vs. Digital – Books

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On Tuesday, I talked about physical vs. digital media, mostly about the subject of video gaming.
Today, we are going to revisit the subject but with a topic that quite a few more people are passionate about, and can easily understand why it is an important things.
Novels.

I discussed the sort of ritualistic tradition that came with physical games. The process of installing a new game, grazing the manual as the load bar slowly inched forward… and while for many, that will ring a bell of nostalgia that they’re happy to remember, for many others that doesn’t matter at all. For a lot of people, they’re happy playing the pre-installed version of Solitaire on their PC. But many people understand the tradition of reading a good, solid physical book.

The smell of the pages. Oooh, especially if this is an older book, the smell of those pages that wafts by every time you turn a page is something that can’t be beat.
Sitting in a comfortable chair on a rainy day (or any day, really) with a cup of tea or coffee, hands gripped tightly to a good book, the only thing you hear are the somehow real and amplified voices of the characters and the crinkling of every turned page.

Another thing. The crinkle.
Ah, what a glorious sound! A lot of the time, you don’t care and don’t focus on it –  of course you read a story what is on the pages, not the pages themselves, but when you take the time and really realize it… or when you’re reading an eBook, a way of reading that obviously doesn’t have physical pages, you can notice it easily, and it can be a little off putting.

Here – take a book. It doesn’t have to be old, necessarily. I have a Webster’s Dictionary right here,  and let’s flip the page. Turn it. Feel the page scrape across the next one, hear the crisp crinkle… at this point, take a chance and really get a feel for that page. That nice, perhaps somewhat grainy, beautiful paper.
It sounds weird! I know. But you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

Reading books is an experience. I mentioned before about video games being an experience inside and out of the game, well with books, the experience is one cohesive entity that never goes away. The experience isn’t just the story that is written on the pages, but it is everything I described above. The ever-growing tight grip of the bottom of the novel as the plot thickens, the crinkle of the page, the smell of the paper, the feeling of progress as the pages begin flying by, faster and faster and faster as you become totally engulfed in the words that you have no clue what’s happening in your own world until you’re either able to put the book down or until it’s complete.
It’s almost magical, the effect that a physical book has. They really are little portals in your hands that can take you to all these fantastic places. You hold the key – just let yourself go, and the hours will fly by and you will feel emotions that feel as real as any other in reality.

Digital novels, or eBooks, lose a lot of that effect.

Sure, they are enjoyable. And convenient. And easy. I have one loaded up on my phone right now because it was on sale and I wanted to give it a shot. The story and the writing is absolutely fantastic – but as a sit in a waiting room, or in a fast food restaurant, or in the car and I just want to read a little… while it is completely enjoyable, I still feel like an outsider. I stare at that bright white screen, and I drag my finger across, and I laugh at the appropriate moments and I get excited at the right times… but it isn’t the same. At all. I am not engulfed, I’m simply enjoying a story looking in, instead of feeling everything at once.

And that isn’t the author’s fault at all. In fact, I’m looking to buy a physical copy of said book at some point so I can finish it up and do it justice, instead of reading a little every time I need to wait a while.
It’s the fact that this medium of reading is… cold, uninviting, and it feels incomplete.  I’m fine with reading a news article or a blog post on a screen, but when it comes to a deep, involved story? No thank you. It just doesn’t work.

And that’s not to say I don’t approve of eBooks. They are good ways to kill time, as I said, they are frequently cheaper than a physical copy and if I really want to read a certain novel and don’t have the twenty plus bucks to shell out for it, then an eBook is certainly the way to go.

It might also help get younger kids and people who don’t enjoy reading to actually read something. I know plenty of people who do most everything digitally because it’s the ‘way of the future’ and they don’t ‘want to be stuck with a dying art form’.
Plus, give a kid an electronic gizmo, and it doesn’t matter if (s)he’s reading The Illiad, it’s on an electronic device, and it has a SCREEN! (Actual excuse, by the way, to why someone would read an eBook to a paperback. It has a screen.)

Another great thing about eBooks is that they can be used for school. If a novel needs to be bought for class, the eBook is cheaper and you can highlight and take notes directly in the app. Whether or not a teacher/professor would allow that depends, but a lot of schools these days are allowing various sorts of tech to be used in the classroom, so I imagine it would work.

And although I said it a bit disparagingly above, the eBook is handy. It isn’t that hard to lug a paperback to the doctor’s office or to the DMV, but hey… having a few books in your pocket at all times is never a bad thing. It may not be the best reading experience of your life, but it’s far better than nothing.

But despite all of the pros that each has, and although I respect both mediums… physical books will always have the win, for me, and I don’t think that was ever a question. I’m an old fashioned kind of guy. I think shelves upon shelves of books is not only more impressive, but also shows character in my opinion, compared to having a iPad or Kindle with hundreds of books that sits there on your desk.

When it comes down to it, books, music, movies, video games… I’m a collector. Sometimes people want to compare collector’ with hoarders, and sometime hoarders call themselves a collector to justify their problems, but that isn’t the truth. Sure, they take up a bit of room. Sure, it would be easily to have all of my media on a single device, but where’s the fun in that? Where’s the personality?

I like being able to touch, hold, and interact with my media. It makes it personal, it makes it unique, it makes it me. You walk across my room and you can learn a little bit about me.
As much as I enjoy technology and how it can bring us together in ways never once thought… I’m also against the way it pulls us apart, makes us so tied to our device, and allows us to almost never have to leave our chair.

But that’s just one guy’s opinion. I’m a bit biased in the first place because when I grew up, hardly anything was digital, except for perhaps some music. I grew up with Blockbuster instead of Netflix, a library card instead of a Kindle, boxed games instead of Steam.

And some day, digital media may surpass it all. It might be the end all be all, and physical media will become irrelevant and outdated.
But until that day, I’ll happily clutch my paperbacks and my boxes and my DVD cases, and just hope that physical media won’t become an old trend of the past.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 3:01 PM

Physical vs. Digital – Video Games

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For a long time I have been a big supporter of physical media. The ability to hold a tangible, real product in one’s hands brings me much more joy than downloading a few strands of code from the cloud. I prefer physical copies of most media – books, music, movies, games… But that isn’t something everyone understands. My family, while they love the content, doesn’t care to much about actually having it. As long as they get the content in some form, it doesn’t matter.
I do see some arguments favoring digital media. Such as the lack of space to hold physical copies of everything they might own. Some people may have hundreds of games on Steam, or dozens of books on Kindle, and there would be no way to store all of that.
I am by far more passionate about physical games then most other media. Well, that and books. Movies and music, while I will continue collecting the physical copies, I see as a lot of good reasons to make them digital. Not enough for me, but in general… I feel that those are better candidates for the cloud storage/digital era.
So let’s break it down, starting with the games.

I recently subscribed to a service called Indiebox. This company works for the noble cause of returning PC games back to their big box roots. If you are unaware of what that is, basically video games didn’t used to come in those DVD style cases. Not even console games, perhaps with the exception of Sega. They used to come in large, cardboard boxes complete with physical manuals and other inserts. PC games, though, got the best deal. Those cases were HUGE, frequently coming with large manuals sometimes as long as books, and other extras called “feelies”. Games like the Ultima series came with a beautiful cloth map of the game world. I was excited two years ago when my copy of Skyrim came with a cheaply made paper map.
They might come with a piece of the in-game money, or little booklets of lore, or sown iron on patch… Basically, things you only find it the good, expensive collector’s editions of games today.
Sometime in the early 2000s, the switch was made from the big box, to the DVD case, because it was more convenient and cost less to produce.
Basically, Indiebox strives to bring back a bit of that nostalgia, and give people that like stuff some real good stuff. They take indie titles that usually only get a digital steam release, and craft a big box (not exactly of PC box caliber, more along the lines of the Nintendo boxes, but they are FANTASTIC none the less) complete with a physical USB cartridge copy of the game, beautiful full color manuals, the game soundtrack, and plenty of other goodies pertaining to the game.
This is really a cause I can get behind. Video games are meant to be experienced, in the game world and out. I can’t tell you how disappointed I get when I find out I paid $50 – $60 dollars for a case and a CD that is so laden with DRM that they might as well just slapped a Steam code in the box and saved them the money on the CD. (I’m just joking, please don’t). What happens to be even worse is putting a little piece of paper in the case that tells you about a digital copy of the game manual. That just feels like they’re pouring salt on the wound.

Indiebox helps relieve a lot of the pain, and I thank them for it.
But that’s the problem with this growing digital era of video games. I enjoy Steam. I use Steam. It is convenient, frequently cheap, and I get to play it without ever leaving my chair.
And as much as I like that at times… When you see where we were, and where we are now? There is something about going out to a game store, picking out the game, taking of the plastic and (used to be) seeing what goodies lay within… I enjoyed carefully putting the CD in and downloading the game, maybe having multiple CDs you had to alternate between, reading the manual and getting excited as the progress bar slowly fills up and your expectations are soaring… It truly is something you are never going to be able to explain to someone who doesn’t understand. Its a ritual, a tradition, that is being left in the dust. And maybe for some people who are too young, or just not a collector, or is simply a casual gamer, this doesn’t matter.
But I’ll tell you, seeing a copy of that game sitting proudly next to the rest of them on your shelf is a much better feeling then seeing that long list of titles in your Steam library.

Like I said, not everyone shares that feeling, and not everyone will understand. The love of physical games to put on your shelf is slowly becoming a niche demographic. A lot of people enjoy the digital convenience, but I say that just gives us another reason not to get up from our chair, and we really don’t need another reason.

You can check out Indiebox at https://www.theindiebox.com/ if you enjoy physical copies of indie titles that are usually only digital, or if you simply enjoy stuff. Because Indiebox really delivers the stuff.

I’ll be back on Thursday to discuss physical versus digital books, and until then…

That’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 2:58 PM