The bookshelf is dead! Long live the bookshelf!

This post belongs to Murfie Musings–a series where folks at Murfie and our guests take the time to share what Murfie is up to as well as explore issues that matter to media ecology.

I have a fascination with the ways in which people create and experience media, and the financial transactions that support these value creating activities. Lately, I spend a lot of time staring at bookshelves full of books, CDs, magazines, DVDs. I call this stuff “flatmedia” – not only because it’s basically two-dimensional, but also because my experience of it is flat relative to what I’ve come to expect from digital versions on networked devices from web browser to iPod to Android to Kindle.

This is not a niche concern – most of the owned media in the world, by an enormous margin, is flatmedia that someone purchased at some point and currently owns. Virtually all of the accrued equity in media in the world exists in flatmedia form. It’s a collective repository of our culture on shelves in homes, libraries, archives, and used book and record shops. These copies we own, plus the unique rights we have to use them as we see fit, are the very reasons why we have any say over how we experience major parts of our often copyrighted culture.

But right now, we’re on a course to give all of that up. Our flatmedia infrastructure is slowly dying, many if not most new and used book shops and record stores will close as they can’t offer the new digital services folks want. As the ecology of flatmedia is displaced, but not replaced, the world of digital media is growing. In that world, the music and book buyer has no strong legal ownership rights to the digital copy of the product they buy, if they even have a copy, and their experiences and flexibility are vendor-controlled. Often, this control is used to subject them to marketing or other manipulation. This is fine for many folks, but many are not happy with the trend, and it drives otherwise lawful people into quasi-legal and illegal niches to get legitimate needs met.

I feel that liberty of experience and the use of one’s personal property and tools is an intrinsic good. Copyright and other legal and cultural norms surrounding flatmedia give us a lot of liberty with personal copies, and this mostly happened because it creates value for the rights holder and copy owner alike. Today we have this liberty in a million little ways. One such easily accomplished liberty is that I can loan a book to Julie, who can then allow her mom to read part of it, and then give it back to me. I don’t need an account or permission or a feature to do that. I can also put some of her CDs in my car legally. Books and movies that I don’t want anymore are material property with real value, and that property can be sold or traded at used shops or online. I can get some money for new CDs while making used ones available to people who could not or would not buy full-price music.

That’s part of why, starting with CDs, Murfie seeks to upgrade our members’ flatmedia from their bookshelf to the digital world and protect both their existing rights and their material property. We’re the friendly platform for media owners with an approach that respects artists’ rights and needs and offers them services and direct access to our marketplace. We want artists to sell lots of new music on Murfie. We also respect the rights and needs of those who support and facilitate artists, like labels, publishers, distributors, and in fact new and used retail stores. These groups are not obsolete – they have all sorts of value-creating power and we’re happy to partner with them. Murfie will list and sell every new title we can find in CD format, and we’ll continue reaching out to labels to find other ways to work together.

While we do this, we’ll always respect and protect the rights, needs and desires of our members. Ultimately, it’s the music listeners, the movie watchers and the book readers who provide the revenue that makes the creative ecology tick, and Murfie’s here to help.

Suggested Reading
http://blog.murfie.com/2011/11/29/music-ownership-vs-streaming/
http://blog.murfie.com/2011/10/08/music-tastes-change/
http://blog.murfie.com/2011/09/23/its-the-hard-knock-life-for-artists-online/
http://blog.murfie.com/2011/09/11/music-not-on-itunes/
http://blog.murfie.com/2011/06/23/the-cloud-music/

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