Here's a link to a recent article from the Chicago Sun-Times about Chicago's sudden paucity of classical record stores:
I was struck firstly by the similarities to the Boston scene... Two glorious Tower records closed - check! One so-so Virgin Megastore came and went - check! A frenzy of last-minute buying ensued when classical die-hards realized that the formerly disparaged Virgin was closing - well, at least from my own experience... check!
And now while Chicago's classical "obsessed individuals" turn to smaller, independent or used record shops, here in Boston I find myself visiting the marvelous Orpheus records no longer just to browse or to pick up the odd LP, but for much more of my 'I actually need this recording' shopping.
But more generally, I'm wondering about what effect (whether negative, positive, or negligible) the emerging lack of an actual physical product will have on our corner of the industry. I use iTunes ALL the time, and have grown to rely on it, especially the instant gratification factor. (I can't be the only one who has taken a last-minute gig, realized I have no clue what the piece sounds like, and grabbed it off of iTunes to listen to on the T on the way to the gig!) But how many of us have stumbled upon something we liked on iTunes, bought it, listened to it a bunch and realized that we really, really liked it, and then ordered it again from Amazon just so that we could own the actual CD, with liner notes et al.
I've done this, although I wondered if I was being weird as I did it. However, if I translate the idea to the (admittedly far less widespread) medium of books vs. e-books, and I think of how precious (in a nice way) true bookish people tend to be about their books, then the idea of absolutely needing to have an actual copy of the book rather than just an e-book seems perfectly reasonable. Why don't we seem to be attached to our CDs in this way? And does it matter? I can't come up with any compelling reason to mourn the things, but does anyone else feel deeply uncomfortable with the idea that from now on, great record stores with comprehensive and eclectic classical departments may just not exist?