Fidelity matters less for popular music than for books. This seems counterintuitive, but it’s true. I was happy with my copy of Abbey Road despite its abysmal sound quality and the fact that – quelle horreur! – I had only recorded one channel of a stereo mix. Throughout the 1960s and well into the 70s, the main way a lot of people listened to music was through crappy a.m. car radios and crappy a.m. transistor radios. And need I mention eight-tracks? The human ear and the human brain seem to be very adept at turning lo-fi music signals into fulfilling listening experiences – the auditory imagination somehow fills in the missing signal. Early MP3s, though they were often ripped at very low bit rates, sounded just fine to the vast majority of the music-listening public, so quality was no barrier to mass piracy. A lo-fi copy of a book, in contrast, is a misery to read. Blurry text, missing pages, clunky navigation: it takes a very dedicated reader to overcome even fairly minor shortcomings in a copy of a book. That’s one of the main reasons that even though bootlegged copies of popular books have been freely available online for quite some time now, few people bother with them.
Rough Type: Nicholas Carr’s Blog: Books ain’t music. I’m trying to decide whether I agree with this. On balance, I’m inclined to say I don’t, because I suspect that Carr is comparing his very youthful music-listening self with his adult book-reading self.