Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Minimalism: Games First!

Of all the objects I’ve gotten rid of, video games were the first. They have high resell value, they are each to ship, and their shipping costs are way down.

A friend told me I’m getting rid of them because I’m “maturing”. Not sure I agree with that statement.

I love video games. I hope I never stop. Books and movies are passive media. We sit, we watch, events transpire. The only active part of the process is criticism. Video games are inherently an active medium. What occurs depends entirely on inputs from the player.

From first person shooters to point and click adventures, a good game sweeps me like nobody’s business. The reason that I sold my game collection first is because that medium embraced digital in a big way.

Bloodrayne 2 for the PS2 sold for about $15. I picked up the digital version on Steam for $2. $2! So guess what, I took my profits and bought it again. I traded in the old version for the new. And to my surprise, physical games in good condition surprisingly hold their value.

A PSP game is bought for $20 on an Amazon flash sale sold for $45. A game I bought at Toys R Us in 2002 sold for $80. And I’ve mentioned on this blog in reviews, it’s $15 here, $20 there. It adds up.

A used book is $2, maybe $4 if the value is good. People buy DVDs, but not at the value video games still command. A lot of my good fortune has come from obscure games, actually, scratch that, because of obscure games. The more difficult it is to find, the better the value.

Listen team, it’s true. I don’t have the free time that I used to. Some days it’s impossible to sit down to play a 35 hour game. But in the same way it’s difficult to spend that time with games, it’s also difficult to spend that with Netflix original shows.

The major selling point to a digital collection, especially ebooks, is the ability to have as much as you want with no added space. Same for games. For less money, my collection is bigger than ever. And because all the games I sold kept their value, the collection was completely paid for with my PayPal account. With plenty to spare.

I believe digital minimalism is the no-brainer move forward.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Minimalism: Books and Ebooks

Travel is one of the greatest gifts someone can give themselves. The second greatest gift is a book.

When I began decluttering, it was because of digital. For me, digital is the same great taste in a new form. I had read on a phone and tablet, and that experience was okay, better for comics than books, but it wasn’t the same. With the recent upgrades to e-readers, that’s when things finally changed.

I played with a Nook Glowlight Plus (a review of it I did!) and was hooked. No more weird screen flashes. Books were fast and responsive. My library traveled with me. Prices were far more affordable. It was all upside and no downside. Same with games. Which meant, the physical collection I amassed over the years became redundant.

By picking up over 350 ebooks on my Nook, I saved $9,000 from the physical versions.

Ebooks are affordable. On sale, their price ranges from $2 to $4 on average. A new hardcover is $30. So ebooks are a tenth of the price of physical, or physical books are ten times more expensive than ebooks. That $9,000 savings is because where I spent $1,000 on ebooks, it could have cost me $10,000 for the same collection.

That’s over the course of two years, and my reading habit is growing.

That also means the physical collection I sold on eBay paid for the ebooks I purchased. Sometimes when I sold a book, I would then buy the ebook version, and still have plenty left over.

I was doing all this before I knew minimalism was a thing. Ebooks were the catalyst. I still do have regular books in my library. Particularly titles that have no digital equivalent due to their age. There are a lot of books out there the publishers no longer have the rights to digitize, and some stuck in rights limbo. My library is smaller, and it’s also more personal.

I own over 350 ebooks on my Nook. Every day the emails with discounts come in, and I’m unphased. My collection rocks and I still have to read a lot of them. Most days I literally browse from my list and pick from there. We have five great ebook services: Apple, Google, Kindle, Kobo, Nook. Use whichever you prefer. I just like the Nook Glowlights a lot. Very comfortable e-readers.

Buy ebooks. Sell the collection. Get more for less. And remove the urge to buy more things with a strong digital library.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Let's Talk Stadia

Stadia comes from the minds who believe the world looks, acts, and functions exactly like Silicon Valley. But let’s start from the beginning.

An interesting development took place in video games, an adjacent entertainment industry, that I think highlights a lot of good lessons about digital everything. I want to talk about differentiation, or better said, does something serve a purpose.

Google announced their gaming platform, Stadia, which completely removes any physicality (weight or bits), in favor of streaming games. This means a game is being played on a server owned by Google, and the game is streamed to the player putting inputs to the server.

To make this next part make sense, let’s talk about ebooks. Barnes & Noble is looking to go private. A valuable part of the company is the Nook division. The reason being, if a company wanted to compete with Amazon on a first-class basis, they’ll need a full digital suite. The market share that Nook has may be small, but for someone looking to enter the market, it’s faster, cheaper, and easier for them to buy Nook and start with that. It’s why Walmart partnered with Kobo for Walmart Ebooks.

Trying to sell ebooks and e-reader right now is a no-go. They’re dead in the water on day 1.

I bring this up, because when a market has settled, there really isn’t anyway out except for innovation. Kindle users use Kindles. If you have an iPad, you probably use Apple Books. Android tablet; hello Google Play ebooks.

In the video game market, there is the console space (Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony), the PC market, then mobile. All of these are saturated, and like the examples of ebook stores above, they have a loyal following.

Where does Google fit? Let’s not get into that Google in infamous on killing services and products that aren’t runaway successes immediately. I say this as we’re approaching the death of Google+ in a few days.

Consoles have casual users (the kind of people who only buy 1-3 games a year), but they also are home to hardcore fans. This space is also filled with companies who have decades of experience, and with that, brand loyalty.

Is it the very casual users? They play on their phones and tablets. Maybe? But is the type of person who buys a free or 99 cent game going to spend $60 on a title to play over wifi? I seriously doubt it. So maybe there is a subscription service.

Lastly, and the biggest point, the Internet infrastructure in the United States sucks. How are people supposed to stream on poor connections? If you’re not in a big city, your options dwindle the more rural you become. Where I live, I have the choice between two ISPs: Comcast and AT&T. And based where I live, AT&T does not offer a high-speed plan, unless my local area agrees to sign a 15 year exclusivity clause with them.

So I have Comcast. With data caps. And it’s still not great. I’m living like a king compared to the very rural parts of my state, which have no options.

As a big believer in digital, what makes the current state of digital manageable is it’s built on storage sizes and downloads. Most ebooks are not even 1 megabyte. This is why you see Amazon survive in rural areas, because the post office still works even when retail has shut down. If the library system no longer exists, someone can pick up an e-reader to get their books.

Digital serves a purpose. They help make someone that didn’t or couldn’t exist, and make them a reality for people. With a savings attached.

This idea would have worked if Google made good on their promise to roll Google Fiber out across the country. We know ISPs stay out of each other’s turf so they can have a monopoly on certain sections of the country. People have less choice and pay more. And no one regulates or even threatens to break these giant companies up. If Google cared about this all-digital future, they needed to lay the foundation for it.

Could this form of digital streaming solve a need? Sure, it did for movies by the likes of Netflix and Hulu. But movies can be buffered and downloaded. Streaming games in an acceptable manner costs too much (Internet connections, data caps) and the experience for most will be less than what they have.

As of right now, it appears Stadia is a solution in search of a problem.

Predictions: Stadia flops. In four years, Google rebrands Stadia as YouTube Gaming Now or YouTube Gaming Play. This service sees a small increase of success. In ten years, Google "sunsets" this service and migrates these servers for enterprise use.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Day 1 to Minimalism

I’ve mentioned on the blog and newsletter of “cutting down”. I’ve mentioned it a lot, because I’ve enjoyed it and made money at it. We’re nearly an entire year into this change, and I found the term that describes it. Minimalism.

Trust me, I never thought it was minimalism. When I think of minimalists, I think tiny houses, all belongings that fit in one bag, and very sparse rooms. And yes, the extremes do look like those things, but for most people, it looks very different.

When I started selling things on eBay, it was because I needed money. Choosing what to sell was easy. Some old games I never touched anymore held their value, so I sold them for what I paid for them. A great deal. As I did that more and more, I realized there were a lot of things I no longer touch that held their value.

So with a job that was giving me less, I was able to essentially clean my room and make up the difference.

Since then I slimmed down more. Movies, books, fitness bands, all kinds of things have left the house. I kept track of all the states my things have gone, and as of right now, my things are in forty of the fifty states.

Recently I’ve given up on laptops and working exclusively on tablets. An iPad for work, an entry-level Android tablet for home. Minimalism in my life was becoming a thing, and I hadn’t even realized it.

I’m going to post a new series on the blog about the journey to a more minimalist life. As a speculative fiction author, I have my work life down to the essentials. I’ll share the photos and memories of the things I’m giving away and selling. I’ll also post the things that I’m adding that are really adding value to my life.