We need more bookshelves

A few weeks back, I wrote about how it’s annoying that certain popular web things are closed platforms. I was primarily talking about how App.net is taking on Twitter by being infrastructure rather than a platform, but it got me thinking about something else.

At the moment I pay Apple £21.99 a year to act as my music library – iTunes Match – and a very good service it is too.

That is, as long as I continue to use Apple hardware.

If I choose to switch (to Amazon Cloud Player for example) I’m left facing a complicated process of re-downloading and moving my music library to the new service. I’ve long since deleted the actual music files from my computer’s hard drive, not to mention tracks I’ve bought on the iTunes store (which with iTunes Match don’t ever have to download to your computer), so it’s going to be hard. This will be a big problem as we increasingly move from personal storage to cloud services. In fact I’d go as far to say that it’s anti-competitive.

There are already a few media types that are primarily cloud-based i.e. Films and TV Shows (Netflix, Hulu, iPlayer etc), eBooks (Kindle, Kobo etc) and Magazines (Newsstand).

In all the examples above what is ultimately being replaced is the idea of actual, physical copies of media that you keep for the rest of your life. Your collection.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Luddite pining for the days of vinyl, I’m just lamenting the loss of the home bookshelf stuffed with your things. That collection that showed who you are as a person, that made you swell with pride, and that helped you reminisce.

Without getting too skeuomorphic about it I think we need to have a digital version of that bookshelf. A collection of music, films, TV, books and magazines that is truly yours, even if it’s just a list. It should be open and not owned by any one company. Apple, Amazon, Spotify, Netflix et al could provide the actual media from this list – when you give them money – but the list itself would be yours. Your collection.