Saturday, December 28, 2013

CD Wallet vs. USB Flash Drive

Here is an interesting price comparison (from Micro Center):

Toshiba TransMemory 8GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive
Inland 32 Disc CD/DVD Wallet

The flash drive costs more than the CD wallet, but it is no longer such a big difference in price. Why do I make this comparison? Within a certain narrow niche, these are competing products. Either will hold about 400 songs, on music CDs or copied from CDs. Either will play the songs back on a middling car stereo of 2005–2010. The amount of music is, I would think, enough for a two-month vacation. If you are preparing for a road trip and have music on CDs that you want to listen to on the trip, you could choose either the CD wallet or the USB flash drive to contain your songs for the trip.

Most people would do well enough with either choice. I would recommend the USB flash drive just because it is easier to handle and takes up less space. Of course, if you already own a USB flash drive, this makes the choice easier. To the extent that people agree with this assessment, it argues for the functional obsolescence of the car CD player. If you don’t need the car CD player for a 2-month trip, then when do you need it? When you look at the added cost of including a CD player in a car stereo, it arguably makes better sense to leave it out and rely on USB flash memory for music playback.

Obviously, this is not a new idea; people have been buying and using car stereos with no CD player for a few years now. It’s the way to go if you don’t buy your music on CDs, as most people don’t these days. But what this comparison shows is that you now may prefer a car stereo without a CD player even if your entire music collection is on CDs. Even if you have the CDs, it is expensive and not particularly convenient to play them in the car. This, to my mind, is a sign that the music CD is well along the path from being a mainstream media format to being a specialty format, one that you wouldn’t expect everyone to be able to use.