Dispatches from the Digital Revolution
There it was, right before my eyes—a mysterious little word at the top of the Google search website. It quietly appeared on the gray navigation bar between ‘Maps’ and ‘YouTube’ a week before the ides of March.
My first reaction: No, I will not play with you. Bad Google, bad bad Google. Stop being so sneaky. I will not play by your rules, not today.
In the end, I gave in (one month later) and clicked. It felt like discovering a room in my house I didn’t know existed. Books, movies, and songs have all become accessible in one convenient digital space.
Launched in March 2012, Google Play is a multiplatform fusion and rebranding of three predecessors: Android Market, Google Music, and Google eBookstore. This streamlined feature is touted by Google as “your one-stop shop for all your favorite entertainment. With over 450,000 apps, millions of songs and books, and thousands of movies, Google Play has something for everyone.” Users can sample songs and books for free, study app ratings and reviews, and watch movie trailers.
I have to hand it to Google for shortening the distance and slicing the snags between user and content. On the day it launched Google Play, the mega-corporation’s official blog offered a simple but compelling pitch:
Entertainment is supposed to be fun. But in reality, getting everything to work can be the exact opposite—moving files between your computers, endless syncing across your devices, and wires…lots of wires […] Google Play is entirely cloud-based so all your music, movies, books and apps are stored online, always available to you, and you never have to worry about losing them or moving them again.
To test it out, I downloaded a free version of Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise. The convenience of it all makes me giddy, but having grown up with my media parceled out on different devices and sold in content-specific shops, I’m not completely gung-ho with all this integration. Not now, at least. My mind still prefers to uphold what little content separation still exists in this world…but give it time.
In 2002, I was still watching movies on VHS tapes and listening to CDs on a clunky portable player. Now, ten years later, I rely on my computer and its iPod satellite for all media entertainment. Books are my one exception.
This may even be a characteristic of early digital natives: to a great extent, we shrewdly—albeit reluctantly—understand that convenience may outweigh our nostalgia for older devices. Perhaps even time-honored technologies like the codex are not exempt from the pull of digital simplicity and effortlessness.
Google, in its own shrewd way, has identified this point of compromise and has tailored its Google Play ads to converting a demographic still attached to tactile technology.