The End of the Literary Marketplace

When I was in my late teens and twenties, the record stores I shopped in were packed with people just like me. We’d all be shoulder to shoulder at the record bins, flipping through vinyl, occasionally plucking out a potential purchase while smirking at the hopelessly uncool selections of those around us. Later, in the ’90s, as I entered my thirties, I never really stopped buying records (though they were CDs by then) and I would often notice that I was the oldest shopper in whatever store I was in. I was a man among kids.

Skip forward again, as I closed in on my forties, and a funny thing happened. The kids disappeared. It didn’t happen gradually. One day they were clogging the music store aisles, clutching their Smashmouth and Offspring CDs, and the next day they were gone. Today, there are three record stores within a day’s drive of my house (Princeton, Red Bank, and Fords, NJ) and when I go to any of them, I know who I’ll find there before I enter the door. People just like me. Fortyish guys, fiftyish guys. Record collectors. Old music geeks who never gave up the habit. Once again, some thirty years later, I have only my own contemporaries for company.
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Vinyl Dreams in the Age of the iPod

ipod-vinylFor Christmas, I bought my daughter an iPod.

My wife seemed mildly surprised that I would buy an iPod for a seven-year-old (eight in April), but I didn’t see where I had much choice. My daughter has already outlasted her first portable CD player, a SpongeBob SquarePants model, and I saw no reason to invest once more in a “hard copy” disc-based technology that will surely have all but disappeared from store shelves by this time next year.

It’s a bright pink iPod nano, and she seems very happy with it. I also purchased an elegant little iPod-compatible boombox radio, for her room. I loaded up the iPod with a “starter set” of about 75 or 80 songs, and we all managed to be content with ourselves until April, when my daughter started asking for a cellphone.

Still, though, I experienced a small pang of regret, even as I was wrapping the iPod and boombox in Christmas paper. See, I own an iPod myself. I’ve already encountered first hand how an iPod changes the way you relate to music. So I knew that my daughter will never experience music the way I did when I was in my teens and 20s and 30s.

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Some people have dreams about falling. Or having their teeth fall out. Or that dream
where you’re back at your old high school, dreading an exam on a subject you know nothing about, and you realize you’re naked.

I have dreams about record stores.
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