What, you don’t want more Radiohead news on a sustainability blog? I promise to just use them as a starting point. And to reward your patience, at the end of this post I’ll offer a few last-minute gift ideas… Last month the band’s former label, EMI, announced they will release Radiohead's entire back catalog on USB Flash Drive for $165. Following their lead, Universal is releasing a series of singles in the UK this month via Flash Drive as well. One spokesman said, “This is aimed at the younger, 12 to 24 year olds, who no longer believe that the CD is as cool as it used to be”.

But of course it’s about more than being cool, isn’t it? It’s really about faster, cheaper, better — the technology curse. Is Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD any different than VHS vs. BETA or CD vs. USB? The record labels are testing waters and searching for the next big thing. In the same article quoted earlier, Eric Daugan from Warner Music says, “The CD is an old technology that has not evolved. Fortunately people still want to own a physical product, so with the extra storage, the idea is to offer a better consumer experience”. It reminded me of something I wrote last year for a paper promotion: "Tricycle is part of a larger trend that is finding new vehicles for experiences…. We live in a time in which we can have familiar interactions through new mediums. In Tricycle's case, we can substitute paper for carpet, and rather than sacrificing relevance, we actually enhance the experience…."

At least I hope we do. As optimistic as I am about digital technology, I’m struck by how nostalgic and earth-bound we seem to be. In my recent hunt for Christmas gifts I’ve run across a number of items that try to warm digital delivery with facades of sentimentality and irony. This trade for an upgraded experience must result in a net loss. How else can I explain my waxing on about how cool records and cassettes were? How many tapes did I lose in my car stereo because the deck was hungry? Do I really miss static crackle? I attribute my longing to irrational, but valid, emotion. I believe dematerialization’s success or failure is determined by met — or unmet — expectations. How do our expectations differ if we’re buying music on a disc rather than a key chain? What gives value to each? You can bet we’re asking the same questions about our products. What makes sampling faster, cheaper, better?

But enough about us. You’re an ironic hipster looking for a last minute gift — and you just read through all of this speculation to find one. Here ya go, reduced, reused and recycled:

Mix Tape USB Drive

Floppy Disk CD-R

Cassette Wallet

MIXA USB Casette
Designed to your spec

Cassette MP3 Player
It's the whole shebang! Tape, turntable, MP3…

iPod Nano Cassette Case
$45 CAN

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