So I got an MP3 player

A little before last Christmas I went and bought myself a 40GB Creative Nomad Jukebox Zen Xtra (how’s that for an overly long name). It’s noticeably larger than an iPod and the interface, to be blunt, sucks ass - but it was also more than $200 cheaper than the comparable 40GB iPod. I’m not generally one to pay extra bucks for style, and this was no exception. I can put up with the shitty interface.

So anyway, the interesting thing about this purchase is that my listening habits have changed. That in and of itself is neither interesting nor particularly surprising: when you suddenly have the capability to carry 500 albums (encoded at high-quality variable bitrate) in your pocket, some things are bound to change. What is interesting is how my habits changed: I now am more likely to listen to full albums rather than random individual tracks. This is surprising, to me at least: I’d think that given the ability to access any of thousands of songs with the touch of a button, I’d listen more to great songs rather than entire albums, which more often than not are padded with weaker songs among the good ones.

Indeed, when I had my CD player in my car I would invariably listen to mix CDs that I’d made - personal greatest hits collections. Now, when I plug my Zen Xtra into my cassette adapter, I skip the playlists and just listen to whole albums. Previously, I rarely had the patience to sit through an entire album in the car. The annoyance of having to switch CDs while driving meant that, instead of listening to original CDs, I burned mixes so I wouldn’t stick in a CD, get bored halfway through, and have to change it. Now, because I can just push a few buttons to change to a new album if I get bored halfway through, I’m far less hesitant to start playing a full album from the beginning. This all makes sense. The mystery is, why is it that now I seem to have more patience and am more frequently able to listen to an album in its entirety?

Maybe part of it is a physical fetish thing. I see all these great CDs lying around, and just seeing them makes me think of the music on them and makes me want to listen to them. So I’m compelled to keep switching CDs. With the MP3 player there are no visible cues as to other music I could be listening to, so I have no motivation to switch music and am instead content to listen to whatever I’m listening to already.

I’m rambling. But this is odd. I remember posting a long time ago that I was afraid of what an MP3 player might do to my already-fragmented listening habits; evidently these fears were entirely misplaced.


Leave a Reply