I spent my teen years in a town with the population of about 20,000. The closest Best Buy or Barnes & Noble was 1.5 hours away. Traveling there was a treat for me and my siblings, something for which we became greatly excited. Visiting a large mall carried the same vibe. We would walk through these places and our eyes would fill with wonder at the new and unique items that could not be found at our home town. Video game specialty stores were particularly exciting. Racks of games, especially unknown games (like Privateer 2) were offered en masse. I would save my measly dishwashing income for those items. With little or no competition available, I would easily pay $50-60 for a N64 game that I knew little to nothing about or $10-20 for a music cd by an obscure artist. Sometimes it was a bad investment.
But then something wondrous came along. Initially, it was just the internet. Fairly novel and useless at first, the internet quickly became a place I could navigate to gather information only available before by books, the history channel, and word-of-mouth. I spent hours after school in the lab searching the web for information (my home connection was practically non-existent). I would manually print volumes of paper to retain this scarce information. Compared to now, this was the dark ages of computing.
Then the real breakthrough came: Amazon.com. Barnes & Noble fast found that they could not charge ridiculous prices for books and Best Buy found they could no longer charge ridiculous prices for electronics. Buyers had options.
Even music artists started feeling pressure. Singles now can be downloaded for less than a $1 from Amazon and users can preview songs before purchase. No longer can bands with one good song sucker mass amounts of money from naive buyers. New bands no longer need labels to promote them. And record companies can no longer decide what will be the approved music. In short, archaic and autocratic radio stations began to die. Now Amazon.com is moving to offer digital versions of movies, and YouTube is hosting independent movies for free. It is only a matter of time before movies escape captivity as well.
Recently Steam and Direct2Drive started offering electronic versions of video games. Specialty game stores have started focusing on PlayStation, Nintendo, and Xbox games (hardcopy games that cannot be had instantly at bargain prices), and instantaneous pressure was placed on those stores to lower hard copy game prices as well. Obscure titles now have distributors, and consumers now have options.
As the older store-going generation starts dying off, prices will continue to plummet with advances in distribution media. The internet brings information to buyers and brings competition to sellers.
While I have since moved from that dying town of 20,000 people and can now drive to Best Buy within 5 minutes, I usually choose to instead stay home, flip open my Touchsmart laptop (bought on HP.com), and then navigate to Amazon.com to place orders. Shipping is usually free, the items come straight to my door, and my money is saved in troves (ex. saved over $200 buying a Rebel camera from Amazon oppossed to Best Buy).
Do I wish I was born 10 years sooner such as to live longer in the “good old days”? I think not. I wish I was born 10+ years later.