Kevin Kelly has a great post on the notion of moving from an ownership-based world to an access-based world. Here’s a taste:
Very likely, in the near future, I won’t “own” any music, or books, or movies. Instead I will have immediate access to all music, all books, all movies using an always-on service, via a subscription fee or tax. I won’t buy – as in make a decision to own — any individual music or books because I can simply request to see or hear them on demand from the stream of ALL. I may pay for them in bulk but I won’t own them. The request to enjoy a work is thus separated from the more complicated choice of whether I want to “own” it. I can consume a movie, music or book without having to decide or follow up on ownership.
In many ways, a lot of us are already there. The truth is I haven’t bought an media in a physical format in ages. Not a CD or DVD to speak of and even my dead-tree book purchases have plummeted.
Just what has replaced all of these hard-good purchases? My NetFlix subscription, Pandora, Boxee, Stanza, ITunes and all the rest. When it gets right down to it about the only things I really buy-to-own these days are food and alcohol and I don’t really “own” those for long.
Of course, the idea of a subscription-based life works for goods that have little-to-no scarcity factor it seems less likely that rental will replace all aspects of ownership.