I can't remember the last time I listened to music on the radio, from a CD, or a cassette. I can hardly believe I am writing this, that's how important tape recorders — and, later, CDs — were in my life. I would have defined myself as a hard-core recording audiophile. I believe I was the very first person in my home town to own a battery operated reel-to-reel tape recorder and I know I was the first kid in my high school to own a cassette recorder. The first thing I did with every LP I purchased was transfer it to cassette so I wasn't tied to the turntable to listen to my favorite tunes. I was so passionate about audio recording and tape recorders that I pursued it as a career.
That was then, but we now live in an entirely new world. Now, all my music lives in the form of MP3 files. Furthermore, up until the last couple of weeks, they lived on my computers' or servers' hard drives, on various and assorted MP3 players, or — ahem — my smartphone. Whichever device was the player du jour, my music was physically stored there, toted around with me, little electronic molecules within arms reach. I recognize, however, the winds of new paradigm on the horizon — the Cloud.
A couple of years ago, I learned about Pandora, the Internet-based music service that feeds each listener a customized selection of music based on a "station" that is constructed on the fly from a root artist. Want to listen to a bunch of music like Mel Tormé? Build a station based on Mel Tormé and Pandora feeds you music from him and similar artists. It's the ultimate mood-defined listening. What a fascinating idea! And for a small fee, it's all commercial-free.
More than that, Pandora has proven to be a technology that is almost flawless in it's implementation. As long as I'm connected to the Internet, the music streams perfectly and sounds great — on my computer, on my smartphone, on my TV (via our Roku box), from my iPad or Transformer. It's a proven paradigm, so I was predisposed to have faith in Amazon's new cloud service and the Amazon Cloud Player that was touted as part of the Kindle Fire's ecosystem. Amazon's Cloud Player is sort of a cross between Pandora's ethereal sourcing and my personal MP3 library. Essentially, you store your music on Amazon's cloud computers, listen on your Kindle Fire/computer/iPad/Android device via streaming Internet feed.
After a couple of weeks of using it, I can report it is flawless. No hitches, no dropouts, no buffering glitches. I'm sure there are some who will resist the idea that their music storage is not under their control, but I haven't seen any issues yet that would give me pause. I still have all my MP3 files stored on my computer hard drives, too, so I'm not turning over complete control to Amazon. For a device with limited storage like the Kindle Fire (and every device has some limit to its amount of available storage), it appears to be an idea that really works.
The obvious caveat in the ointment [insert smiley face of your choice here] is that it only works if you have connection to the Internet. I still have lots of music on my device's memory card, but I own so much music that I can never have it all with me at any given moment. The Kindle Fire allows me to download to the device any music I want to listen to while I'm away from an Internet connection (traveling or flying, for example). If I happen to hear something I don't already own, Amazon is more than happy to instantly take my money and instantly load the music onto my cloud drive, thereby making it available, ahem, instantly. No more extra memory cards with additional music; no more constant upgrading to larger and larger capacity cards as I expand my music assortments; no more compromises about which music to take and which to leave behind — who knows what mood I'll be in and what song will be floating around in my pea-brain that demands attention? The Amazon Cloud Player and Cloud Drive are an answer I didn't really know I needed until it plopped into my lap with the Kindle Fire.
For us photographers, the paradigm translates to images and slideshows almost on greased skids. Hmmmm . . .