Last night, on a whim (mostly to see what the user experience was like), I downloaded an album from the MP3 Store at Amazon.com using my Palm Pre. Over three years ago, I posted "Why I Buy CDs". Looking back at my original reasons for obtaining my music solely via CD purchase, I thought it was time for an update. My original reasons are below with today's thoughts beneath.
1) It's a durable format that will last a long time on my shelf. In the case, I don't doubt that my CDs will last at least a few decades (I've had some since 1987 and they still play perfectly).
Still relevant. Hard drives crash, files get corrupted, but commercially pressed CDs rarely go bad just sitting in their jewel case on the shelf.
2) It's guaranteed to be accessible for a long, long time because CD-playing hardware is so ubiquitous and upcoming technologies (e.g. Blu-Ray and HD DVD) still include CDDA as a supported format. At a minimum, I can rip them into other formats that can then evolve as needed.
Right. The concept of an uncompressed "digital master," from which all other formats (Ogg, AAC, etc.) can be derived, is ultimately useful.
3) It's DRM free. I don't buy DRMed CDs because I want to make sure that advantage #2 isn't obviated through software restrictions.
Still relevant. Even though the music industry is moving towards DRM-free downloads, it's not ubiquitous, so you have to know who practices what policy.
4) It's reasonably portable. 10 CD jewel cases takes up a fair bit of space, but 10 CDs doesn't and 10 hours of music is quite a bit for one trip. Granted, for longer trips, I take ripped tracks, but to just toss a couple of albums in the car, CDs are still reasonably handy.
Irrelevant. I don't carry around my CDs at all anymore. A combination of streaming direct to most any device I own (using Orb) and portable media players (e.g., our Archos) has meant the physical CD never leaves our house.
5) I like albums. Even though I may initially buy a 12-song album for just a couple of songs, I often end up really liking a few other tracks as well that I probably wouldn't have bought individually. This allows/helps me to appreciate the artist more completely.
Still relevant, which is why I bought an entire album last night after only hearing a few tracks. Of course, it being by an artist I know I like (Paul Oakenfold) meant that the risk was lower.
6) CD jackets often contain entertaining and/or useful information, such as song lyrics and photos. Given that it's becoming increasingly hard to legally obtain song lyrics online, getting them "for free" in a jacket is an added benefit.
Still relevant. I don't know what I'm missing via the download since I'll possibly never see the liner notes.
One additional reason I prefer CDs is that they're a known quantity technically. Downloads can fail, sometimes meaning having to pursue corrective action through customer service. With a CD, the worst thing that happens is a scratched disc (rare if bought new) and a swap at the store.
A final reason I still prefer the CD that I didn't list back in 2006 is that downloads don't help support my local music stores. Cincinnati is blessed to still have some wonderful record and CD shops, staffed by knowledgeable people (not quite Jack Black in "Hi Fidelity"), and it would sadden me greatly to see those go away as they have in some other cities.
So, while I'm not ruling out entirely the occasional download in the future, I think the majority of my music purchases will still be via CD for some time to come.