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I've been a member of the Columbia House Music Club off and on for about twenty-three years now, first receiving selections on vinyl records (remember those?), then CD's, and more recently on DVD.

Although I've kept my membership active, it's rare for me to actually order something from them because of the high base prices and inflated shipping costs.  Indeed, usually I just decline the selection of the month when I receive those e-mails.  Just a few days ago, I had a charge on my debit card from them and found out I must have missed one of the selection e-mails (I KNOW I didn't order Hitch; when the DVD arrives, I plan to return it and have them credit my card) and was looking around on their site to find out how one can cancel their membership.

Tonight, I received an e-mail from Columbia House saying they are closing their doors effective August 22nd.  Existing memberships will (it seems) be absorbed by BMG Music Club.

I guess it's just a sign of the times as CD sales continue to decline — losing the battle with music downloads.  Critics are actually predicting the end of music stores as we know them with all new releases available via download only.

Although I do enjoy the convenience of downloading new albums as well as live and rare recordings (as long as they are in lossless formats such as FLAC —no MP3's for me!), I still prefer the choice of having a physical product.  I enjoy being able to read an album's liner notes (particularly certain box sets which come with well-researched books) while I listen to the music for the first time.  Even the music I download has to be put into a physical form (a burned CD-R) for me to truly feel like I "own" it; during the time between the download completing and my burning it to disc, it feels like it's not yet in my collection.  Unfortunately, the past few months have seen that limbo period increase more and more where I now have several hundred full albums on my computer, not to mention probably 50 or so ROIO's (both audio and video).  Time to buy some more blanks...

It's probably people like me who have been nailing the coffin shut on Columbia House, etc.  I wonder how long BMG will be able to stay afloat (they charge almost $3.00 for shipping PER DISC, so if you order a 3-CD set it will set you back the high list price plus $9.00 for them to mail it to you!).

I just hope that local music stores never die (although I haven't set foot in even a chain store in several years — not since I was in Hong Kong) and that doesn't resort to download-only distribution for it's music and movies (like some other online retailers have done recently).

It's interesting that among today's music fans, there arguments are rarely about the types of music different people listen to but rather about the METHOD they listen to it (whether on CD's on a stereo or by iPod, lossy versus lossless, etc., etc.).  It's very confusing at times, but probably very similar to the battles fought when CBS introduced the 33 1/3 RPM LP to replace 78 RPM discs and then RCA fought back by bringing out their own format — the 45 RPM single (it would be a few years before it was discovered that the album and the single could co-exist and complement each other).

Yes, it's very interesting to watch developments in the music industry right now and compare it with past history.  When will the record companies learn that they need to listen to the consumer?  Lower prices to increase sales, it seems pretty simple to me...