08 Dec 2009

Giving digital items is hard

Here’s a list of a few things I like: books, audiobooks, music, movies, video games, iPhone apps. I consume these items on a variety of devices: Kindle, iPhone, PC, Mac, Xbox, PS3, Wii. Most of those platforms have a digital download mechanism in place for the software, e.g. you can download music or audiobooks from the iTunes store, Amazon or Audible. You can download movies from iTunes, Amazon, Xbox, or PS3. You download iPhone apps from iTunes. You can download Kindle books from Amazon. You can download many PC games from Steam. Some games are ONLY available for download. The consoles have their own built-in stores that use points or a credit card.

Of all the permutations and combinations, only a handful permit gift-giving. You can “gift” (as we say now) iTunes music, movies, or audiobooks from one account to another. You can do the same with Steam to give someone a PC game. You can purchase an Xbox downloadable game code from Amazon and give it to somebody. That’s it, that’s the full subset of the above available for giving as a gift. You cannot give iPhone apps, Amazon music or movies, Kindle books, or PS3 or Wii downloadable games. The best gift-giving experience is still to give someone a physical item, but as time goes on that’s just not what I want to receive, with the notable exception of movies. I am not yet comfortable owning a purely digital version of a movie. I want to have the disc, preferably blu-ray since the quality is the highest possible.