Saturday, February 6

The hidden costs of technology

All the recent hubbub about Kindle and pricing has reminded me, once again, about the hidden costs of technology.

Okay, we all know that technology is a guilty pleasure for most of us. Even people who live frugal lives indulge in some cool devices. They just save up for it, rather than put it on credit.

People love their smart phones, their net books, and other assorted gadgetry. Even I can't escape technology's lure: I would love an iPod Touch, even though I don't need one like Tim does. In other words, I totally get it.

What concerns me, though, is that people don't realize the full cost of technology. We're not just talking about the cost of buying (and the constant upgrading). Or how quickly the App Store can drain the coffers.

I'm talking about the sacrifices we make for digital media.

Buying an MP3, an ebook or even a digital game means your money is gone. Sure, you'll enjoy it, so it may be worth the cost to you. But the point is, your options are more limited:

  • You can't sell them once you're done.
  • You can't trade them in for store credit.
  • You can't exchange them for new titles through sites like Swaptree.
  • Other than MP3s, you can't share them with a friend.
  • There is no such thing as "used" digital media, sold for lower prices.

And, I want to point out, a book will never "crash." It will never run out of battery and become unreadable. If you spill something on it, all your other books aren't damaged. You'll never have to spend $250 to replace a book. In fact, you'll never have to spend $250 for the privilege of buying books.

Finally, don't count on getting digital media from your local library, either. Yes, more and more are offering digital media, but that doesn't mean it's compatible with your e-reader. Phoenix Public Library titles indicate which devices can download them; but it varies by title. And Kindle isn't an option on any of them. What's more, Seattle Public Library's ebooks can't be downloaded to any e-reader at all.

Don't get me wrong, if you adore your Kindle and sing it love songs every day... I'm glad you two are happy together. It's your money to spend how you like, and I hope that you are thrilled with your purchase. It would be a pretty costly disappointment.

I guess I'm just a little concerned. There is plenty of talk about how cool and portable and convenient digital technology is. But there seems to be little or no conversation about what we are giving up with digital media.

And it's important that we consider those sacrifices, because they are some of the main ways that people stretch their frugal entertainment dollars.


Blogger Angelia said...

I love to read! I have to admit that I own a Kindle (it was a gift-I didn't buy it). And while I love, love, love makes me afraid that actual books will go away because I also love the feel of a good book, love the smell of a old used book store or library.

I've only purchased three books for the Kindle thus far. Only one of them was with my money, the other two with a gift card that came with the Kindle. There are tons of free books to be had with the Kindle, for instance wonderful classics such as the entire Jane Austin collection.

February 8, 2010 at 8:01 AM

Blogger SonyaAnn said...

Interesting post. You are a wonderful writer like your mom!
Have a great day!

February 8, 2010 at 12:23 PM


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