Look carefully at your home. Your old audio tapes may be gathering dust, if they haven’t already disappeared from your home. All your compact discs might just be scratching their backs in disbelief at your neglect. Likewise, the movies in your DVD collection vie for your attention. Your bookshelves may be the hardest hit. Books at home are rarely thumbed, but are displayed prominently enough to impress guests. Yet you’re listening to even more music, watching more videos, and reading much more than you’ve ever done before. So what’s going to happen to your home?
Home Sweet Home.bmp — going digital
Let’s start with music at home. Stereo systems are shipping with USB ports and card-reader slots, plus an iPod dock-connector. Folks just plug in several hundred hours of music on their USB data-sticks, or the cards from their mobile phones. I play my music collection off my personal MP3 player to any stereo system, via a simple audio cable. Most parties I attend have the host, or the assigned DJ, playing music sourced from a laptop, over high-powered amplifiers and other gear. Newer home-stereo systems allow users to receive music streamed over Wi-Fi, with the music either stored on a home computer, or somewhere in the Web-cloud.
The story is similar for movies, with TV sets sporting similar ports, and even buttons to take you directly to YouTube. This decade, you may well see the disappearance of books from your home, with the advent of ebook readers, tablets, and other devices — including smartphones that are capable of displaying ebook formats. So homes will soon have a lot of real estate freed, emptying those cupboards and shelves of books, tapes and discs. Time to rejoice!
More space is not freedom
Spaciousness should not be confused with freedom. In fact, if you’re not careful, you might suddenly find your new lifestyle may no longer be free. You may have several different devices, as would the others at your home. Are you authorised to share your music across all your own devices, especially when these may be from different vendors? Can you legally share your music with the devices of other members of your household? Ditto for all your movies, and especially your ebooks collection? Heck! You might just miss your old analogue days, when sharing music with the folks in your home was just a matter of sharing a tape or a disc. Great friendships in life have started over sharing books with neighbours. Try that with your vast collection of ebooks today!
Take a look at the cat-fight between Apple and Palm. Though Steve Jobs made amicable noises about selling music without digital restrictions (that is, DRM-free), Apple’s music store, iTunes, does not allow a Palm Pre smartphone to purchase and sync music with it. The Palm attempted to do this by masquerading as an iPod, or even through its WebOS — but Apple responded with software patches that scuttled such sharing.
Okay, so let’s get this. Books brought knowledge home. Today, ebooks will divide a home, and forbid the free — as in muft and mukt — sharing of knowledge. A home in which books and music cannot be shared between family members and neighbours, is a home with no culture. Such a home may just be a battleground for brands trying to trap individual members into different vendor lock-ins.
“I love you, and you love me, but my Samsung won’t talk to your Nokia; my Creative Zen won’t touch your iPod; and I am forbidden from sharing books from my Kindle to your Android tablet. Oopsie! Even my favourite album can’t be shared between all my own devices.”
Alarmingly, children may no longer share their school syllabus material, now digitised and served off laptops and school websites, with their younger siblings. In such a home, sharing through love may just bring on litigation, from lawyers suing on behalf of various publishers.
Is this how you wish your home to be? How can you bring freedom back into your home, with the dazzling onward march of technology? Share your thoughts with me — because sharing begins at home. And I’ll share the best ideas with everyone in my next article.