The lost art of browsing

Being in the technology business, I am very often on the bleeding edge of anything shiny and new in the tech world. Partly out of my own curiosity and partly to be able to intelligently answer questions clients may have, I very often jump on new technology as soon as it's available and test it thoroughly.

As an avid music fan and musician, I was a very early adopter of CD conversion into digital music files as well as peer to peer sharing services like Napster and Limewire. I had previously been a voracious music collector and owned several thousand CD's at that point. Being able to convert them to digital format and carry all those many thousand albums in my pocket was a revolutionary concept that consumed me.

Ditto for ebooks, digital audiobooks and movie streaming. I think of a movie, book, song or album and within seconds, I can enjoy it.

It's a wonderful idea and I take full advantage of it on a regular basis.

So why do I miss Tower Records? Why do I miss Strand Bookstore?

I found myself walking around a Barnes and Noble store the other day with my boys and very quickly realized how much I enjoyed the concept of browsing. I became nostalgic for the feeling of scanning through a shelf of books, grabbing one and flipping through it. Amazingly I had that same nostalgic feeling as I wandered into their music section. I would probably never buy a CD again, but I sincerely enjoyed walking through the aisles and browsing through the different genres of music. I looked through the Jazz section and flipped through all the John Coltrane CD's they had along with other Jazz musicians I had never heard of. 

The highlight of the browsing experience was in the DVD section. Again, I would probably never buy another DVD again, but I found myself smiling broadly as I browsed through the Classic TV section. I couldn't help but smile as I scanned through the shelf of titles like Sanford and Son, Gilligans Island, Three's Company and so many TV shows I grew up on. 

All the books, music and movies I browsed through could have been searched for and located online. That's not the point though. The simple act of browsing through the physical media gave me a feeling that I had not had in quite a while and realized, I sincerely missed.

Walking into Kim's Video on St. Marks Place in the early 90's and looking through their obscure films and their "Recommendations" rack is an experience that simply cannot be created online.

And that's a very good thing.