BakeTheWhales posted a great comment on my last post Finally a compelling reason to buy music digitally, which is worth another post in response. I agree with almost everything the commenter says, but would like to elaborate.
My reasons for still liking CDs aren’t due to technophobia; in fact one part of my hesitancy is because I know all too well how easy it is to lose data stored digitally. Hard drives don’t tend to last more than a few years anymore. Flash drives have limited life. Even data written to common DVD-Rs don’t seem to last more than a few years before they become unreadable.
This isn’t to say it’s not possible to have a good backup system to ensure you don’t lose anything, but that can be fairly expensive and time consuming.
Further, and my next hesitancy, is that I’m still not sold on what you’re actually buying when you purchase music digitally. When I purchase a CD I’m buying the rights to “fair use” of the contents for as long as I want. I can make a personal copy of the CD and continue to have fair use rights even if I lose the CD.
Last time I checked (maybe the rules have changed), purchasing music on iTunes entitles you to 3 downloads of the media. This is tantamount to leasing the media. If, over my entire lifetime, I manage to lose all personal backup copies 3 times I’ve lost the rights to the media.
What happens if iTunes shuts down? Unlikely as it sounds, it could happen within my lifetime. I then lose the ability to access the media again. This is a fairly big deal for someone who has invested 10′s of thousands of dollars into their music library.
I have purchased albums from iTunes but my hesitancy is with switching to them as my primary source. I assume these issues will get resolved in the future.
Lastly, on whether CDs will last forever or be readable in 50 years: they won’t. I think music will move completely digital once some of the above issues are resolved.