Record Racks, CD Towers, and Bookcases: ADC, Part 23

The bookcase is dead. Long live the bookcase!

What need is there today for a large, bulky piece of furniture occupying an inordinate and unreasonable amount of residential real estate?

The by-now distant introduction of eBooks – digital versions of printed documents – doubtless sounds the death knell for Gutenberg’s paradigm-shifting 15th century invention.

And haven’t we seen this drama played out already?

In the sound recording medium, for instance. As a kid, records meant vinyl in one of two formats: 33 or 45 rpm. That’s just the way the world was. (I’m not old enough to remember “playing” 78s, never mind wax cylinder recordings. Thank goodness for garage sales.)

And about the only cool thing associated with the vinyl medium was that abstractly designed, reticulated round plastic insert in bumblebee yellow (I’m sure they came in other colors) used to adapt the 45’s half dollar-sized center hole to the skinnier spindle used for 33 LPs.

Anyone remember what LP stands for? Hint: not Liquid Propane.

The petroleum-based records – and this was a BIG deal in the early 70s when the first “oil crisis” occurred – gave way to sound on tape packages, first in 8-track cartridge format followed by cassettes.

I know there was always reel-to-reel. But that was for the audiophiles.

Tape and then Sony Walkmans did for recorded music portability in the 70s what transistors did for broadcast radio in the 60s.

And all this leading, inexorably it seems, to digital files. First on CDs, now downloaded off the World Wide Whatdoyacallit.

First it was metal record racks (for LPs) and colorful boxes with handles (for 45s) that became dinosaurs. Cartridges and cassettes had their own furniture and carrying cases.

And those awful CD towers of particle board (and worse), slender skyscrapers looming large in living room corners all across the nation; testimony to our (self-evaluated) good taste and occupying space otherwise better left vacant.

Do digital devices and content disseminated digitally mean the end of printed books? And if so, what need is there for a bookcase? Besides the occasional pangs of nostalgia, who’s yearning for a return to the snap, crackle, and pop of vinyl?

Is print going the way of live broadcast radio?

Wait! I love live radio!

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