Digital Schmigital

I was feeling pretty good about myself last week. I was able to read an infuriating article in the New York Times and because I am more mature and grounded these days, I was able to see past all of the little peeves in the piece and write an impassioned critique of the big picture problems.

No such luck today. Today the drooling mega-pedantic nerd returns.

There have been a lot of news reports lately about the state of the music industry. MP3 players and various online download sites play a big role in these stories because they represent a shift away from music sold on some piece of physical media and to a world where what you are purchasing is in principle more ephemeral. Here is my plea: please stop calling this stuff digital music or digital books or digital video.

Two stories tonight on NPR tonight triggered my drooling. The first was covering the audio book industry and talking about how downloads of “digital” books had started to cut into the market previously dominated by CDs. The second piece was about the recent Apple/Apple deal with the Beatles, and how the Beatles have not made their music available in “digital” form for download online.

Here is the problem: CDs, as we all know, store sound in digital form. So, along this axis, there is no difference between books or music on CD and books or music that you download. Same for video and DVD. Bits are bits.

The correct distinction to be made is whether you are buying these bits at a store, in a box, stored on disks, or whether you are sucking them down the tubes that make up the Internet. Either way it’s all digital. Please get this straight. Please please please.

There. I feel better, a little.

Next week on the drooling mega-pedantic super-nerd: the phrase software program. Jesus, I hate that one.