Jimmy Buffett and Red Shirts

Jimmy Buffett and Red Shirts

I recall, standing on the edge of Town Lake, with my feet in South Austin, listening to the guitars riff through Jimmy Buffett’s version of “Scarlet Begonias.” The first time I heard it? That version? I recall the way I enjoyed it immensely. Still a favorite album, along with some of the earliest of Buffett’s oeuvre.

When I received that CD, my very first action was slide it into a laptop, import the songs, and export those songs to an iPod. iPod “mini,” at the time.

It’s about an experience, but I’m tracking this along several different avenues. First, I had to have a CD. Then I had to rip that onto an portable player. Or better yet, tracks that I could place on multiple devices. ( Check the date — pre-iPhone.) While I did have a big hard drive back-up at the time, I still preferred all my music as an object, notably, a CD, replete with liner notes and pictures.

A half dozen years later, what’s changed?

“Change is hard.” (anon.)

The novel Red Shirts was available as a teaser, first four chapters, for free on Amazon’s proprietary Kindle platform. I saw a book review that suggested it was a decent read, and it’s been a while since I’ve seen any truly satisfying Science Fiction. The first four chapters scrolled by in a hurry, fun, engaging, satirical (I think).

Might be a little off, and I did have to jump through configuration hoops to make it work correctly, but it does, now. I can order on Amazon and have it Wirelessly Delivered to my iPad. (Hint: check the device settings.)

I looked at Barnes & Noble, two different stores, plus a couple of the used bookstores I favor, and I never did find a hard copy of Redshirts.

Between Apple’s iBooks, and Amazon’s Kindle, though, I prefer the iBooks. So after the four chapters, I bought the book on iTunes. Same price, better format, for me.

Which is the point. Ownership. Tangible product. Something I can hold in my hand, like a book, a record, a CD.


I’m a merchant of intangible but valuable digital commodities. Mostly characterized as entertainment, but call it what you want. I’ve peddled digital long before the term “Pay Wall” existed.

I’m not a new idea. However, I’m also stuck, swimming in a collection of audio CDs, and a library that is forever growing.

I couldn’t find the book in physical form. For some reason, I wanted an actual “book.” I don’t know why, Redshirts is obviously what I call “Airport Reading,” good, fast, comestible, digestible, funny, poignant, topical, but not necessarily truly high brow literature. Doesn’t mean the material is not enjoyable, just not too deep.

Digging into literary archives, Redshirts is pulp fiction, referring to a brief era when magazines were published on pulp, rough paper, high acid content. I’ve seen pulp magazines with actual wood chips visible.

Buying digital spooked me. I prefer books in book form.

As an amusing anecdote, I was at the bank, last year, taking care of business, and the banker (Cancer) needed some incorporation papers, the state docs, federal tax numbers, that sort of thing. Zapped them over digitally. All digital. No real papers.

The definition of “ownership” is changing. Doesn’t mean I don’t prefer real books, or a CD.

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  • rhubarb Sep 22, 2012 @ 10:10

    I always like Scalzi’s stuff. Satire, but a good story, too. This post of yours inspired the one I wrote today. Originally was going to leave it as a comment, then realized it had turned into a prolix essay.