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Far from the madding cloud

WE NEED to talk about things.

I don't mean "things" vaguely, or at least conceptually, ken?

I mean in terms of objects, things in particular that you can own. If you want me to be even more specific, then allow me to fill yer boots with the following: books, CDs and DVDs.

These contain ideas, sounds and sights, which are "things" that you can't grasp physically. But you can put them in plastic cases and give them colourful covers. Then, particularly if you're male for some reason, you can put them in alphabetical order.

Lastly, you can look upon them with pride and say: "I own these." If that sounds crass, it might be better to say you have them in protective custody, or that they are an ever-present, tangible reality, so that you can read, watch or listen whenever you like.

This idea of owning such cultural artefacts is going out of fashion as, increasingly, we don't "own", we download. There's nothing to hold.

It's all in the cloud. It's insubstantial. And I'm having trouble with it. The matter was brought to a head when I joined Lovefilm. The idea was to save me a small fortune in paying for DVDs.

Lovefilm has been assimilated into some kind of Amazon thingy, and you still have an option of renting physical DVDs, but the main principle remains the same: you download stuff.

It's scary. When you love a film you've downloaded, it doesn't hang around for you to fondle, but disappears back into the ether whence it came.

E-books are similar, though you can keep them in an insubstantial-feeling electronic library. I gave it a go, as I simply hadn't any more room in Wit's End — ma hoose — for yer actual, physical books.

But, after a while, I got antsy. And, eventually, I started ordering real books again. This literal materialism is reprehensible in a way. But if I want to kiss a book, my Kindle doesn't give me that chance.

Technology is making everything invisible. And it keeps changing. I've still got videos, LPs and cassettes hoarded in the attic, perhaps to sell on eBay when the going gets rough.

As for the books, I don't know what they actually do. I suppose, on their many shelves, they make me look civilised or brainy. In other words, they lie.

But now the truth is out there, somewhere in the cloud.

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Arts and Entertainment

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