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Can Print Be The Next Vinyl?

from the it-would-take-work dept

One of the more interesting trends in the music world is the “return” of the vinyl LP. While sales of CD’s continue to fall in the face of digital downloads, vinyl LP sales continue to rise:

Consumers purchased 1.88 million new vinyl LPs in 2008, an 89 percent increase over 2007 and the highest sales volume recorded in the 17-year history of Nielsen SoundScan. Further, in good news for some physical retailers, two out of three vinyls LPs were purchased at independent record stores.

There are a number of reasons for this, but the most obvious is that the LP is a tangible object that can’t be easily reproduced and can only be shared through a physical, real-world exchange. For true fans, the LP is a sort of badge of fandom, proof of just how much you love the band. Compared to a digital download or a CD, the LP is a crafted thing, complete with large-scale artwork and often other inserts.

While it isn’t likely that LP sales will eclipse digital downloads anytime soon, it is also highly unlikely that the LP market will be undercut by piracy.

Could these same factors be a forecaster for the future of printed books and newspapers? It is hard to imagine that these items, so easily digitized, will be able to maintain their current position on top of the mountain and we are already seeing the rapid decline of the newspaper business.

In the cases of both newspapers and books, it might be that their only hope in surviving over the long-term is to invest in elements that can truly not be pirated. As Dave Eggers points out in a recent Salon interview:

I think newspapers shouldn’t try to compete directly with the Web, and should do what they can do better, which may be long-form journalism and using photos and art, and making connections with large-form graphics and really enhancing the tactile experience of paper. You know, including a full-color comic section, for example, which of course was standard in newspapers years ago, when you’d have a full broadsheet Winsor McCay comic. So we’ll have a big, full-color comic section, and we’re also trying to emphasize what younger readers are looking for, what directly appeals to them.

Now, I am not saying that comics section will save newspapers, but the point is to make the object something desirable to possess in physical form.

For the moment, we are going to see traditional publishers fight futilely to maintain the status quo but the ground is quickly falling away beneath them and it is going to take some innovative thinking about the value of printed matter to keep them in the game.

Crossposted from My Media Musings



Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 1:52pm

    This same line of thinking can be applied to books quite easily.

    I own the "Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H. P. Lovecraft", which I bought well after I owned most of the books contained within in digital form. This is largely as a show of being a fan (or pretentious) and partly because I simply like the feel of a hefty book (if it were actually leather bound I would have spent much more on it).

     

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  2.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jul 20th, 2009 @ 2:12pm

    Re:

    I do the same--the collected works of Larry Niven, Jerry Pournele, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Cory Doctorow...

    I also have most of these books in digital form (being able to carry around half your library in your iPod Touch is incredibly convenient) but wouldn't give up my paper copies.

     

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  3.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jul 20th, 2009 @ 2:14pm

    Re:

    Oh! And of course, my leather-bound gold-gilded copy of "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe"

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 2:29pm

    Vinyls are coming back because marketers realize that people want to collect/own vinyls for sentimental and personal reasons. There's an authenticity associated with them that can't be matched.

    CDs are dying because the attitude towards them is "buy a CD to get the music", which is horribly outdated.

    Newspapers are dying for the same reason. They're considered a means for communicating information, and nothing more.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 2:32pm

    Vinyls are coming back because marketers realize that people want to collect/own vinyls for sentimental and personal reasons. There's an authenticity associated with them that can't be matched.

    CDs are dying because the attitude towards them is "buy a CD to get the music", which is horribly outdated.

    Newspapers are dying for the same reason. They're considered a means for communicating information, and nothing more.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 2:50pm

    just wanted to say I'm one of the people buying vinyl.

    A few reasons:

    1st reason:
    - I am a DJ, while most everything now-a-days is digital, often times I'll find one-of-a kind pressings that just are not online, anywhere. I have no problems picking up a few of these each month.


    2nd reason:
    - You already mentioned it but LP's are more collectors/prize additions to me. The Beastie Boys for example have been re-mastering old albums and selling them on very high quality 180g vinyl pressings. Typically the re-mastered album will include a big coffee table type booklet, 3 pieces of 180g vinyl (with the whole album on them), tons of art-work, fan art, stories, notes, and it also includes a digital download (DRM free) of the album + b-sides, remixes, and live versions of some songs. To me that's a pretty good value considering what I am getting.


    Looking back I'm a little bummed I sold my vinyl collection back in the day. I kept some good stuff, but I should have kept it all.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 3:03pm

    And That's OK

    For true fans, the LP is a sort of badge of fandom, proof of just how much you love the band. Compared to a digital download or a CD, the LP is a crafted thing, complete with large-scale artwork and often other inserts.

    I've never really understood why so many people seem to have a hard time admitting that. As if though they're ashamed of it or something. Instead they go on and on with claims of how LPs are somehow higher fidelity, despite all the double blind listening tests that have proven otherwise. What's wrong with the truth? The real reasons are perfectly good all on their own.

     

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  8.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Jul 20th, 2009 @ 3:18pm

    I feel this is already at play in the book publishing industry, especially in terms of fiction, where you see various hardbound editions and anniversary compilations and the like. Most chain book stores now have a whole section of fancy-looking copies of old public domain classics, because they know that not only will people buy it for the binding, they will buy it ONLY for the binding, because books have become a home accessory.

    I have also heard that interior decorators can order leather-bound books *by the foot* because they are such a useful tool for creating atmosphere.

     

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    trilobug, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 3:21pm

    It's a bit different music is not text or images it's less concrete. I mean music has a greater ability to invoke the genuine sense, and I think that is why record fans purchase vinyl the how they do.

    If I want to see a picture or read something a synthesized version is adequate I don't need the original form (hard copy vs digital)- some audiophiles (those that purchase vinyl) cannot, will not compromise. Sure 50 years from now it would be great to read an actual copy of Times the day Obama was elected or MJ died, but I'm not going to pay for it because all I want is information. It's far less subjective.

     

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  10.  
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    DJ (profile), Jul 20th, 2009 @ 3:23pm

    Re: And That's OK

    "claims of how LPs are somehow higher fidelity"

    I've never heard of anyone actually claiming that. I HAVE heard, however, of people saying that the LP "sounds better". This is not a claim of fidelity but a matter of aesthetics. These people are saying that they LIKE the way an LP sounds versus digital sound, DESPITE the actual difference in fidelity.

    The two should not be confused.

     

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  11.  
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    DJ (profile), Jul 20th, 2009 @ 3:28pm

    Books n' stuff

    I absolutely REFUSE, when reading for pleasure, to read a book off of a computer screen; unless, of course, there is no other way.
    Even after the advent of LCD screens and doing away with typical CRT screens, I get a headache if I read from a monitor for too long. Besides, I don't want to have to curl up in a comfy chair with my laptop; somehow it's just not the same as a book.
    Newspapers, on the other hand, ARE good for something: packing material.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 3:34pm

    I doubt it'd be that hard to make an electronic home vinyl copier/printer.

    I just can't see them catching on, either. If you're buying the vinyl, it's likely because of the cachet of owning something on vinyl--which you just wouldn't get with a "burned" copy.

    The same thing could easily apply to CDs, but for the fact that I have never seen one of my friends actually carrying a legitimate CD. They own the legitimate CDs, but the things they play in their cars are the mix CDs derived from the originals.

     

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  13.  
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    Luke Stackwalker, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 3:50pm

    Re: Re: HGTTU

    I WANT THAT!

     

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  14.  
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    DJ (profile), Jul 20th, 2009 @ 4:04pm

    Re: Re:

    Is it the Complete Guide, or the Ultimate Guide, though?

     

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  15.  
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    Jiimbo, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 5:40pm

    Yeah.....

    Records and Tubes,

    Hear something you've been missing......

    It's a niche almost, I'd gander, with head shops and the like as well, and the increase of MJ use and legalization in area's, it's no wonder record sales are off the charts.

    Hey I like the warmth also, but cmon man, times have changed. You need some dope equipment to have satisfaction to play with that plastic almost in a way.

     

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  16.  
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    DJ (profile), Jul 20th, 2009 @ 5:56pm

    Re: Yeah.....

    Apparently, the main problem with most constructive comments on this site is that when you read them, you have a f****ing clue what the person is talking about.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 5:59pm

    Re: Re: And That's OK

    I've never heard of anyone actually claiming that.

    Then you've missed it I guess. But it certainly goes on.

    I HAVE heard, however, of people saying that the LP "sounds better". This is not a claim of fidelity but a matter of aesthetics. These people are saying that they LIKE the way an LP sounds versus digital sound, DESPITE the actual difference in fidelity.

    And yet, in double blind listening tests they are unable to tell the difference between an actual LP and a digital CD recording made from that very same LP. Funny, huh? So there's really no sound advantage to LPs considering that CDs can be made to sound just like them.

    Even funnier, they'll go about how it is "impossible" for digital recording to capture the nuances of an analog performance the way an LP can, neglecting that their analog LPs were probably made from digital master tapes to begin with!

    The two should not be confused.

    Not doing so.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 6:59pm

    now that my daughter is 2 years old...kids books are the best example of this.

     

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  19.  
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    S.P. Gass, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 7:24pm

    The DJ makes some good points about vinyl's appeal. I think another reason may be the retro-cool factor. People may like them in part for the same reason they like old-fashioned looking phones, etc.

    In terms of vinyl sound quality, I have heard the arguments about superior sound from vinyl. I think the argument is that CDs use digital sampling so you're not getting the full shape of the sound wave whereas records give you the whole wave. However, as was pointed out, the ear cannot detect the difference. In reality, you get pops and other defects with records, but some people prefer the "warmer" sound.

     

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  20.  
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    Tek'a R (profile), Jul 20th, 2009 @ 7:49pm

    The concept of print media as a scarce good has been something I have long recognized. While I have vast amounts of my collection in digital format, reliable print is a wonderful addition.

    It is worthwhile, to me, to own well-bound hardcovers, either of interesting new printings or well-preserved classics. This tangible, physical good has a greater value then the plain printed (well, scanned and lcd displayed) word.

    So, if content-owning companies can keep from tripping over themselves, I look forward to our future with well-printed newpaper comics and well-bound books as a bit of a luxury item, produced for the masses who desire a little more.

     

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  21.  
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    S.P. Gass, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 8:08pm

    Re: Print

    I think books will be around for a long time. I don't own a kindle and don't think I would ever read a book online. Paperbacks are cheap and I don't mind splurging on hardcovers from my favorite author.

    The trouble is more with newspapers and magazines. Covering current news a day or week late isn't going to work considering all of the options online. People will still want souvenir newspapers for big events, but I don't think people will ever have an interest in archiving daily newspapers. Prediction: Good quality magazines covering non-time sensitive topics will survive.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 8:16pm

    Thing about newspapers, is they're almost always considered a disposable medium: buy, read what's new lately, then throw away. Or use in your parrot cage.

    If anything, they should enhance the quality of the paper to make it better at receiving bird droppings or soaking water or something.

     

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  23.  
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    Chargone, Jul 20th, 2009 @ 9:42pm

    ya know, while the Contents of a book are arguably infinite goods, I'd have to say that the books themselves are a legitimate finite good. people Want the books. the book itself is already added value/reason to buy. especially with favorite series or authors.

    there's also the hassle factor. while just downloading and playing music is a lot less of a pain than buying it and dealing with format issues and DRM and 'whole album for one song' and over pricing and blah blah blah, for books, the vast majority of the time, getting, owning, and reading the physical hard copy is Much less hassle than dealing with the digital equivalent.

    this is especially the case with long texts.

    the internet is Ideal for serializing stories, though. witness the more story orientated webcomics which do full pages rather than strips. or the way fanfiction.net is setup [err, allowing for the fact that maybe half the content is utter drivel no matter how you look at it, anyway. hehe]. it also works great for magazines and such [witness the Grantville Gazette that Bane Books puts out. it's doing ridiculously well, apparently.]

    and yet i still buy novels. paper back, admittedly, due to shelf space and budget limits, but i buy them. i read scanlated manga all the time, but if a series is any good, and actually available in English from volume 1, I'll buy it. [if it's NOT any good i tend to give up on the scanlated version within a couple of chapters anyway :D]

    actually... for all i don't buy much music, somehow the idea of owning actual vinyl records appeals more than CDs. partially because the CDs are so mundane, partially due to good memories of my grandparent's old records when i was a kid. heh.

    books really do do something to the atmosphere of a space, too, it's true. even paperbacks. i have a shelf full of dvds... and it's just a shell full of Stuff, like my one full of TCG cards, or the one full of wargaming models, or cloaths... but the shelves full of Books actually change the space somehow.

    i think there's a psychological aspect to 'em or something, i doubt books are ever going to go away. they Might, but it's rather unlikely unless we start running out of paper or ink, i would think.

    newspapers... are a completely different story. as people have said, buy, read, chuck. no different than a phonebook, just smaller and obsolete sooner. magazines get a Bit more love, but if they get collected, it's for the information there in, pure and simple.

    humm... i'm sure i had a point at the beginning here, probably several. ehh, they're in there somewhere. heh.
    i mean, i always have a point or three when i Start... it's the end that's questionable :D

     

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  24.  
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    Steve Steidle (profile), Jul 21st, 2009 @ 5:23am

    Re: Books n' stuff

    I completely agree with DJ. I may read the occasional longer text online, perhaps up to the equivalent of a 100 page book, but whenever I truly want to read something completely for pleasure, I definitely hit up my local bookstore and cruise the self for awhile. Holding an iPod, Kindle, or laptop just doesn't feel like reading a book. Its kinda scary when you are only 21 and you still insist on doing things the "old fashion way"...

     

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  25.  
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    Chargone, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 6:15am

    Re: Re: Books n' stuff

    nothin' wrong with that when it's actually, legitimately, Better. I'm fairly sure that's the case a lot of the time with books :D

    well, maybe not Reference books... but, you know, generally speaking.

     

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  26.  
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    Mr. LemurBoy (profile), Jul 21st, 2009 @ 7:23am

    I'm in agreement that there's something about a physical book that goes beyond the text. Sure, it's nice to have an audio copy of a book when driving, or an electronic version on your kindle / iphone / whatever when you're around town and find yourself waiting somewhere, but nothing beats the tactile sensation of curling up with a good paper book.

     

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  27.  
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    Marin Designer, Jul 21st, 2009 @ 6:32pm

    LPs were great...

    but I'm not giving up my mp3 player. Newspapers were designed to toss after use- they were made to go in the trash! I would guess that the actual market for fans of paper printing is far lower than even the most marginal music artist. So, I'll just keep getting my self-identifying freak on with Mojo Nixon vinyl... but it's probably not going to happen that I'll want a souvenir copy of the 1994 Health Care editorials.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2009 @ 10:15am

    apples and oranges

     

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  29.  
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    SEan, Jul 22nd, 2009 @ 10:27am

    DAve Egger in Salon says he is trying to find out what 'young readers' want in newspapers.

    YOUNG READERS USE THE INTERNET!

     

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  30.  
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    E.C., Jul 22nd, 2009 @ 1:28pm

    Vinyl

    As a vinyl purchaser, I have two reasons I buy records. One is the same one I've had for years, which is just that I like to collect records, particularly rare ones (and when I started in the early part of the decade, LESS vinyl was being produced, so some things that seemed cool then like clear or colored vinyl are fairly commonplace now).
    The other reason has really only come up in the last few years. I was a member of Oink, and am now a member of What, so I download a TON of music just to check it out. When I find a band I really like, it doesn't feel fair that I'm enjoying what they do free of charge, so I'll buy a ticket to a show and/or a t-shirt and/or an album. But if I'm buying an album I already have the music to, all I'm really doing is making a purchase to have the physical album. A lot of the time, I'll buy the CD so I can make digital backups more easily, but if What already has V0 and FLAC and I'm not worried about it, I'll buy the vinyl because a) it adds to my collection, and b) if I'm pretty much just buying it for the lyric sheet and whatever else is in the insert, why not have it 12" wide instead of 5?

     

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