Bookshelf

At the weekend I listened to a long conversation between my wife and a friend talking about the buying of a birthday present for a mutual friend. It struck me that the rapid pace of digitisation has significantly changed the way in which we give “meaningful” gifts.

First off, let’s get this clear – very much a first world problem.

But, if you think about how quickly we have moved to digital media – books, music, increasingly now video, magazines, newspapers, photographs – and how the old analogue versions made such wonderful gifts and yet digital versions just aren’t the same. Even buying the device on which the content is consumed is providing but maybe a two-year present lifetime.

Some of my most treasured possessions are gifted old media: the Watford programme from the match on my day of birth; a first edition Gerald Scarfe illustrated Treasure Island; a signed first edition of Douglas Adam’s So Long and thanks for all the Fish…

Giving and receiving gifts between us is a very important part of our culture and psychology. Buying Amazon or iTunes vouchers, though, just doesn’t cut the mustard. They become functional, fiscal transactions, not gifts. How we will fill these gaps in the future remains to be seen.

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