The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Let’s keep physical media alive in a digital age

LiLi Jarvenpa
Kip McCabe, a manager at Reckless Records, stands behind the counter at the record store on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. McCabe says it is gratifying to see a younger generation become interested in physical media.

I remember reaching up on my tiptoes to grab a CD from my mother’s collection as a kid. Every night, she let me pick which album to listen to while she cooked dinner. As the pasta boiled or the chicken baked, my mom and I would twirl around the living room, dancing to Blondie or Elvis Costello as the disc spun. I’m sure you could find a video of this on an old camcorder in my house.

I grew up in a house filled with everything from CDs and vinyl records to “Spy Kids” on a VHS tape. Valuing the arts was instilled in me from a very young age, and with that came an appreciation for this old-school physical media.

Streaming content may be inescapable in the ever-morphing digital age, and physical media is in a constant ebb and flow of dying and resurfacing. For example, in September 2023, Netflix stopped mailing DVDs, even as vinyl record sales were up 22% in the first half of 2023.

I firmly believe physical media should live on, even though so much content can be accessed online — and I’m not the only one who thinks so. 

There is an infatuation with physical media because of its simultaneous fragility and permanence on our shelves. 

DePaul senior Taylor Pacheco collects physical video games. He said since digital games are linked to an account, it is easy to lose games if the system breaks down, but physical discs can be preserved.

“I always see it on my shelf, and it’s reassuring that you know it’s not going anywhere,” Pacheco said.

Moreover, it can simply be nice to interact with something tangible.

DePaul junior Lily McCauley works at The Shack, a center where students can rent out film equipment. She said she is interested in the old-style mediums used to make and distribute movies, such as film reels.

“In an age where there’s so much that is not tangible and kind of beyond our grasp and bigger than the scale that we can operate at, it’s kind of nice to have something you can hold in your hands,” McCauley said.

Circulating physical media is a way of recognizing art in its purest form before it becomes digitized and mass-produced. I can fully appreciate digital media created on laptops, iPads and other mediums, but I believe there is a human connection that comes with physical media. It’s powerful that someone produces work and then the consumer gets to hold it in their hands and keep it forever.

One can argue that streaming and digital media services like Spotify are more convenient.

But there is something quite remarkable about opening a vinyl record and seeing the artwork on the cover and on the record itself. Physical media creates an entire experience for the consumer, which is much more engaging than pressing a button on your phone.


The interior of Reckless Records is lit up on Belmont Ave. on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. The store is one of three Reckless Record locations in Chicago that carry new and used vinyls, CDs, DVDs and more.

Kip McCabe, a manager at Reckless Records, a group of record stores in Chicago, said it is rewarding to see a younger generation embracing physical media. He thinks people are drawn to vinyl records because of the sound quality and the cultural statement of owning the product.

“People now wear a (record) collection kind of like a fashionable jacket or a pair of shoes,” McCabe said. “It’s … a point of pride to be like, ‘I have every record Radiohead’s ever released, including all the hard stuff to find.’”

McCabe said the record community is in “bewilderment” by the renewed popularity of physical media after watching the vinyl records market crash with the rise of new technology.

“I remember the onset of digital — the digitalization of music where CDs even stopped being a thing because Apple had invented the iPod,” McCabe said. “It literally just kind of killed our business overnight.”

Magazines and newspapers have also been hit hard by the digital world, with print newspaper circulation steadily decreasing, according to a 2023 Pew Research Center study, one of many sources on the trend. 

Selfishly, I want to see physical newspapers continue to grace newsstands around the city. I also think newspapers are more interactive and harder to look away from. Perhaps it is because journalists like me think the gold standard for news is a printed newspaper.

Still, while there is immense value in collecting different forms of physical media, it can be an expensive hobby.

DePaul senior Graham Rowland, who is majoring in film and television, says he and his family love collecting DVDs and Blu-Ray movies. However, he says he cannot collect as many movies as he used to because it costs so much.

“You can spend $25 for an HD Blu-ray CD with bonus scenes, or you can pay $7 a month and get that same movie, plus 200 more,” Rowland said.

Admittedly, I also struggle to justify buying a single movie or album, but the novelty has not worn off for me yet.

One of the first albums I remember picking out was “Red” by Taylor Swift. Before that album, I had been listening to burned discs of her music that my babysitter gave me. I remember playing “Red” in my mom’s old station wagon and being mesmerized  with the CD booklet the whole ride home.

Since then, if an artist I love releases a new album, I will most likely go to my local record store, buy a copy and stare at the cover and booklet until the last track plays.

I’ve been dedicated to physical media for 21 years, and I don’t plan on stopping soon.

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