07 February 2013

Physical Media Still In Decline

* Barnes and Noble, the last major book store chain in the United States, has plans to shut down almost a third of its locations in an effort to staunch the declining profitability of its core dead tree book business and the failure of its Nook entry into the e-book world to replace those profits.
[O]ver the next decade, the chain will reduce its outlets by about twenty a year to reach a figure of about 450-to-500 consumer stores, down from a peak of 726 in 2008. A separate chain of 674 college bookstores (which thrive on tchotchkes and their exclusive franchises) is not part of that calculation. . . .  [Their CEO] disputes the notion that bookstores will be unable to hold their own in the digital era, despite the chain's need to downsize where rents or locations are hurting the prospect of acceptable profitability. Only a handful of the stores--fewer than twenty--are actually losing money, he told the Wall Street Journal's Jeffrey Trachtenberg.
The fact that 97% of its stores are at least breaking even is less impressive when you consider the the demise of most of its competitors has left it with a dominant market share of retail store based dead tree book sales, and that his calculation presumably does not allocate debt incurred at the company-wide level to finance projects like its investment in the Nook to individual stores.

I still like to buy hard copy books and check them out from the library, but there are lots of reading materials that I used to read on paper and now read on a computer screen for both work and pleasure.  I read hundreds of academic journal articles and opinions in court cases a year, but I haven't read more than half a dozen academic journal articles on paper since the early 1990s.  The last time that I read an opinion in a court case out of a book was probably at least a decade ago.

* Colorado Academy, a secular private school in the Denver metropolitan area, is replacing almost all of its dead tree textbooks with tablet computer based electronic media next year.  They've downsized student lockers in their new building as a result.

* Blockbuster consolidated into one chain all but a handful of independent stores into its retail store based movie rental business in the United States, although it does not control kiosks rentals for new DVD releases, DVD rentals by mail and download via Netflix and a few other companies, and DVD sales in a variety of outlets.  Since that consolidation and following a bankruptcy, it has then dramatically trimmed the number of retail locations that it operates itself and has devoted almost no resources to making those locations desirable.  The remaining retail stores (just one in all of Denver) mostly seem to be ways to lure people in to receive Dish TV marketing and liquidate inventory that closed stores didn't manage to shed.  The result is that it is now much harder to get older movies on DVD if they aren't available at a library.

* The United States Post Office announced this week that it will soon be discontinuing Saturday mail delivery to save about $2 billion a year in expenses, despite a lack of clarity on what authorization it must secure to do so.

A few years ago, this seemed like a hardship.  These days, I feel as if I will hardly miss it.  Apart from Christmas cards, bills, and a few magazine subscriptions (none of which are so time urgent that Saturday mail delivery matters), no one gets the mail at the office on Saturdays, and I get very little non-junk mail these days at home.  I correspond regularly with family and all sorts of other people via e-mail and text, but I can't recall the last time I wrote a personal letter on paper that didn't accompany a package.

* It has been quite a few years since I mailed in a tax return or a filed a physical court document (with the exception of one collections action in one small claims court that has since converted to e-filing and a few original Wills).

* Scanned copies of documents transmitted via e-mail have almost entirely superseded the slightly less emphemeral fax machine over the past few years, at least in my world practicing law.  Some industries (like adversising promotion companies) appear to still routinely use faxes, but their ranks are waning.

* The only reasons I use removable media in my computer these days are to install new hardware, to transfer very large volumes of files in litigation, and to access DVDs and CDs that I have checked out from the library.  I have a physical backup hard drive (for some of my data, a cloud based backup for other parts of it, and a LAN server for yet other parts), but use a USB connection or Ethernet connection to hook up my computers to these resources when I am actually using them.


1 comment:

Jude said...

I've started reading lots of UK blogs & following a few UK Twitter accounts. The same phenomenon is occurring there. This was in the news today: http://www.musicweek.com//news/read/hmv-announces-66-store-closures/053489 Amazon just provided me with mp3s, stored in my Cloud Drive, of every album I've purchased from them since 1997, including (annoyingly) ones that I bought as gifts). Still, it's cool to suddenly have digital copies of CDs that my kids destroyed. Netflix won. Amazon won.