Mr Luddite and Dr Digital

Throughout my career, I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve had people referred to me to help them with a digital problem. ‘Talk to Alan, he’s the digital/social/SEO/LinkedIn/Twitter guru’. Or ‘Alan, I’ve got a problem with my privacy settings on X/Y/Z social network’. And yes, I can solve the majority of problems that come my way (or I’ll figure out how to fix it). Add in that I had an iPad before they were even on sale in the UK, had a digital camera in the 90’s and am constantly on the look out for new technology to make my life easier, I’ve created an image of a digital native who consumes all content on a lightweight slimline shiny piece of kit. But you know what? And this may come to you as a bit of a shock – I’m a complete luddite.

Ok, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But it’s true when it comes music and books. Yes, I’ve downloaded music and books to my devices in the past but I’ve always felt that there was something missing with my purchase.

I pre-ordered the new Quantic and Alice Russell album on iTunes a few weeks ago and as soon as it passed midnight on the day of release, the album uploaded itself automatically to all my devices via iCloud. Amazing! What an age we live in! Now, this week, Spiritualized released their first album in four years. If you’re not familiar with Spiritualized, I’d advice you check them out on Spotify however one thing noteworthy about Spiritualized in a non music sense is that their albums are always beautifully designed. Ladies and Gentlemen we are floating in space came packaged as a giant pill, Songs in A & E was a medical notebook. To say that there’s love put into the package is an understatement. So, there was not a hope in hell that I was going to just download this record as I knew I’d feel like I’d missed something. But I know what you’re thinking. Why don’t I just order the album from an online retailer and have it delivered to my door? Yes, I also buy albums via Amazon but for this release in particular, I really wanted to get the record store experience. So, I went to Fopp in Bloomsbury after work on Monday and spent a good 30 minutes or so just browsing. Obviously the Spiritualized album was the first thing I picked up (what if they sell out??? I imagine that there’s huge demand for this release 😉 It came in a white box with slipcase if you’re interested in the packaging) but I spent the rest of the time, looking at the new releases, staff recommendations, speaking to the staff about new stuff they’d heard and what they were looking forward to. In the end, I bought a few extra CD’s, and some cheap DVD’s and despite the fact that I spent more than I’d have paid either downloading the albums or even buying them from Amazon, I had a shopping experience that was worth so much more than just ‘adding to my basket’ and using ‘one click payment’.

The same applies with books. I’m reading a book called Responsive Web Design which is a gripping thriller about a renegade cop with a heart of gold who infiltrates a thai drug ring (It isn’t. It’s a very technical non fiction manual). Anyway, point is, the book is on a digital subject. It’s just screaming out to be read on an iPad or Kindle. But you know what? I bought the paper copy. Yes it cost me more and I got stiffed on postage (thanks international orders!) but the book is part of a series that looks absolutely gorgeous. I worked in publishing for three years which was the logical conclusion for a lifelong love of books and whilst I have some books on my iPad (last download – I am Zlatan by Zlatan Ibrahimovic) I can’t think of anything worse than reading a book on a Kindle or iPad on the tube. I love the physical experience of reading, turning the page on a novel, which I’ll read and re-read to the point that I’ll break the spine.

Now, as I mentioned at the start, I’m not a complete luddite. I’m listening to Frank Ocean’s Nostalgia/Ultra right now, procured through ‘digital means’ (figure than one out) and am going to read an e-book on SEO shortly but the one thing that the music and publishing industries cannot do in a digital world is replicate the experience, look, feel and smell of their products in their non digital forms.


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