We’re never going back to the 70′s or 80′s when everyone who bought music invested in their own LP’s. But record sales are up after a long decline, and for those people passionate about sound quality (not to mention old-school DJ’s), records are the only way to go. Unless you have a pretty high-end system, I would argue that the sound quality from an analog player versus digital downloaded music is pretty significant. Digital can be great, but put an average or good-quality record player against a Bose iPod player loaded with music, and one sounds likes bits and bytes (perfectly fine, but always too perfect and clean), while the other sounds like something alive, genuine and complex with the imprint of time and physical effects, not to mention a realness that a music journalist could explain in technical terms, but I can’t. But I can hear it.
So while records are similarly resource-intensive as opposed to digital downloads, like books, there is also a quality issue here. I think records on a record player sound better, period. Though of course even more so than with books, the portability issue is also highlighted in a more extreme way. Still, for home listening, nothing beats the real thing running right ’round. And as is the case with books, there’s more than enough vintage and used records floating around that there’s little to no need to buy records new.