A couple of days ago, I bought some new writing music: "The Best of Captain Jack" (which I'm listening to at the moment--fun, bouncy, dance music, totally recommended for anyone who likes bouncy and fun). I purchased the album as an mp3 file for about ten bucks from Amazon.com. The entire transaction, from search to playing it on my computer (through Windows Media Player, my player of choice), took less than 10 minutes. I should point out that I am, in may ways, still technologically impaired (I bought my first mobile phone two years ago and I still don't text), so I consider it quite an accomplishment that I was able to be listening to my new 'cd' in less than a quarter of an hour after finding it on the digital shelf.
Far more impressive, however, is the fact that a year ago, when I went looking for this CD, it was out of print and running close to $100 for a used copy. One hundred dollars. If anyone else is thinking "yikes!" then you know exactly how I feel--and why I jumped at the chance to buy Captain Jack as a digital download for ten bucks. Not only that, but I don't have to worry about the care and feeding of an electronic file the same way I need to worry about the care and feeding of a CD (or an album; remember how easily those things got scratched? Still, it was better than having your tape player eat your favorite cassette!)
I first discovered the beauty of digital downloads the day I was scrambling to buy a copy of Diana Paxon's Taking up the Runes, as my print copy had gone missing in my house and needed to get my notes together for a class I was to teach the following day. I called three local brick and mortar bookstores, but no one had a copy in stock. Then I remembered that there were Kindle apps for PC. I went to Amazon, and within twenty minutes, I'd downloaded Kindle for PC, Ms. Paxon's book, and was putting my notes together for class. Once I found my print copy (it was mis-shelved), I was able to lend it out to one of my students... AND I don't to lug that book around with me when I'm on the go. (Right now, I'm sitting in the air conditioned bliss that is Panera; I've got about two dozen books on my Kindle for PC, should I decide I feel like reading, or want to get a leg up on my notes for my next Rune Class.)
Two years ago, I bought my first digital camera--and I love it. I have saved more money on film development than I paid on the camera; in other words, the camera more than paid for itself (although it is a battery eater, so we bought recharagables). I can snap as many photos as I like, but only develop the ones I want. The rest can remain electronic files that I can look at anytime I want, without having to worry how to store them. (A couple of years ago we had a flood in the basement... twenty years of photographs were ruined beyond repair, including the only photos I had of a friend who is now deceased. How good it would be to have had a digital photo...)
My novel, Heart's Home, was just picked up by Dreamspinner Press. I submitted my manuscript via email a month or so ago; I received my acceptance letter and contract the same way. Within a twenty minutes, I'd signed and returned my contract electronically and sent a nice thank you to the editor--and got a nice email back. And what a nice feeling! There was no anxiety, wondering, did it get lost in the mail or not? I even have the option of being electronically paid, through PayPal.
Dreamspinner uses the Chicago Manual of Style as its grammar/punctuation guide. So, when in doubt of whether that should be "James' coat" or "James's coat", I can go to the Chicago Manual website and look it up, even if it was three o'clock in the morning. For around thirty bucks a year, I get full access to the whole book, with updates as they come out. If I want a print copy, it's going to run twice that and doesn't come with constant updates. Which would you choose?