Why I prefer access to ownership, part 1: cars, books and more

This article is part 1 of a series. See also: Why I prefer access to ownership, part 2: housing

For me, access is better than ownership for most things. I’ll talk about why in this post and the next (a two-part series).

Car-sharing: better than owning just one car

photo by mathoov on Flickr

When I got rid of my car in 2005, I started using Zipcar from time to time. With Zipcar, I have a many different types of cars at my disposal. That’s much better than having to choose one type of car to own! I can reserve an SUV, a Mini-Cooper, or any other type of car, depending on what I need it for. And the cars are always clean and practically brand new. The gas is included with Zipcar rentals – you just use their credit card kept above the visor.

I don’t need a car often, since I usually walk, bike or take public transportation, but when I need a car for a short time, car-sharing is great. And, as you can imagine, not owning a car saves a LOT of money. Money that can be used (in my case) for iPads, travel, ebooks, and more.

Choose the kind of vehicle you want each time.
Choose the kind of vehicle you want each time.

Zipcar is available in multiple cities around the U.S. with one membership. Very convenient!

Why would I want to own a car (with all the usual headaches and expenses), when I can conveniently use all these different cars whenever I want?

I’m glad to see car-sharing (and bike-sharing) services becoming more and more popular in the U.S.

More info

E-books: Why I don’t mind not owning books

Now that I’m location-flexible, I want to have access to my books from anywhere. I read constantly (mostly non-fiction). I used to have a huge collection of books filling my apartment and each time I moved it was a lot of work to pack and unpack all those books!

I got a Kindle when they first came out. I no longer have a Kindle, but I use the Kindle app on my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Air. I also read many ebooks that I’ve purchased directly from authors or publishers in PDF or epub formats. I LOVE reading this way. Now I don’t have to decide which books to bring with me when I’m traveling (all of them!), I don’t have to keep lots of printed books around, I can enlarge the text size for easy reading, read in low light (because it’s backlit), and more.

My last two shelves of books at the end of 2012.
My last two shelves of books at the end of 2012.

So many books! I’m keeping a few for sentimental reasons.

Each time I moved in the last few years, I sold or gave away more of my printed books (I had thousands). I finally reduced my collection to two tall bookshelves in 2012. When I moved at the end of 2012, I only kept a few print books: a tiny Spanish/English dictionary & a Spanish grammar book which I brought to Oaxaca, though I mostly ended up using apps instead.

I also kept a box full of vegan cookbooks and a few books with sentimental value from my childhood & teenage years. The books from my childhood are stored in the basement of my rented-out condo in the Boston area. The cookbooks I asked some friends to store for me (and use) until I go to their house for Thanksgiving (my yearly tradition). For cookbooks, it’s easy to find recipes online, but since changing my diet (to mostly vegan, mostly raw) made such a huge difference in my life, I didn’t want to get rid of all those books, they meant a lot to me. Now my friends can use them and I can also use them when I’m staying at their house for Thanksgiving.

Vegan cookbooks
Vegan cookbooks

When I was feeling that last bit of attachment while getting rid of so many books that I loved, I made myself feel better by taking photos of the spines of all the books on my shelf. Somehow it made me feel good knowing that I have a record of those books somewhere. I purchased ebook copies of a few favorite books, but the rest I will probably never replace. One bit of news that I heard about just recently is Amazon’s Kindle Matchbook program. It looks like I’ll be able to buy cheap e-versions of some of the print books I bought from Amazon in the past. For details, see: Amazon’s Kindle MatchBook Is a Win-Win For Everyone Involved.

Accessing my ebooks from anywhere

I read a lot of non-fiction that I might want to refer to again. That’s easy to do since my Kindle ebooks are stored on Amazon’s servers for easy downloading, and my PDF and e-pub books are stored in Dropbox. If Kindle books don’t exist in ten or twenty years, I don’t mind, because the books that I read are mostly current topics that will be obsolete in a few years anyway. For the most part, my reading is a constant stream of new titles. When the Kindle was new, there were some books I wanted to read that weren’t available electronically. Now that rarely happens as more publishers make their backlists available as ebooks. If I can’t find something electronically, I don’t read it! (I find something else on the same topic).

Kindle for iPad
Kindle for iPad

Free access to the classics of literature

Sometimes I like to read classics, like the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and those are easily available for free in electronic form. My favorite app for reading those is Megareader ($1.99 for iPhone & iPad), which comes loaded with connections to some of the best archives of public domain books, such as Project Gutenberg and Internet Archive. I don’t need to keep copies of classic literature, because I can download those for free on a moment’s notice.

Megareader iPhone app
Megareader for iPhone

What about magazines?

Zinio for iPad
Zinio for iPad

As for magazines, I now read them in the Zinio app on my iPad. I subscribe to Macworld and iPhone Life through Zinio. It’s great reading on the iPad, because the layout and photos are the same as in print, but I can zoom into any part of the page for easy reading. Frequently, I take a screen shot of some bit of info I want to remember. I used to have piles and piles of old magazines in my apartment, full of sticky notes marking items I wanted to remember. No more! All my screen shots are stored in Evernote, where I can search them and find anything I want later on. Zinio is great because it has a huge number of titles, including many alternative press and non-English language titles. Some public libraries offer Zinio, so you might want to check with your local library to see if you can access some of the Zinio magazines for free.

“Netflix for ebooks”

Oyster iPhone app
Oyster iPhone app

One relatively new development is the idea of an all-you-can-read plan for one monthly fee, sort of like streaming Netflix, but for books.

I recently got an invitation to the beta version of such an app for ebooks, called Oyster. For $9.95/month, you can read as many books as you like from their collection (about 100,000 titles). It’s a nice idea, but I searched for 10 books that I had in my Amazon wishlist, and none of them were available in their service. I tend to read books that are somewhat obscure, so I wasn’t surprised. They are expanding and I hope they will have more titles in the future, because I like the idea. For now I’m not going to continue it after my free trial month.

“Netflix for magazines”

Next Issue
Next Issue

I had a much better experience with Next Issue, which is like Netflix for magazines. I’ve always loved reading magazines, but now I don’t buy them in print (unless I’m in the airport and need something for takeoff and landing).

With Next Issue, for one monthly fee ($9.99 or $14.99), I can read all the magazines they have (about 100 titles). This works well for me because I like to skim through the current issues of several magazines and take screen shots of things I want to remember, like reviews of books or apps or gadgets. They don’t have anywhere close to the number of magazines available in Zinio, but they have several mainstream titles that I like to read, such as:

– Money
– Fast Company
– Inc
– Entrepreneur
– Wired
– Elle Decor
– Real Simple
– This Old House
– Vanity Fair
– New Yorker
– New York Magazine
– Vegetarian Times

Check out their complete list of titles. I really like Next Issue and I’m planning on subscribing when my free trial ends. I’ll still keep subscribing to Macworld and iPhone Life in Zinio, since they aren’t available here, but for all these other titles, it’s great! (Both Zinio and Next Issue are available on multiple platforms, including Android).

More on Oyster and Next Issue

Access to movies and music

Music streaming apps
My favorite music streaming apps

I feel the same way about music and movies. I use Pandora, Spotify, or Songza to listen to music, and streaming Netflix for movies. As soon as iTunes Radio is available, I’ll be trying that, too. And of course I like to go hear live music and see movies in theaters.

As of this date, Pandora isn’t available in Mexico (where I’m living now), and Netflix has a different, but overlapping collection of movies than the U.S. version. But, that’s easy to get around by using a VPN service, such as Tunnel Bear, which makes your computer appear to be coming from the U.S. I hope that eventually these services will be able to make licensing agreements that allow them to be used in every country.

More info

All of this makes it much easier to go anywhere and read or listen to almost anything at anytime, with just my iPhone or iPad! I love it. I don’t miss hard copies at all. I can’t even remember the last time I read a printed book.

Coming in part 2:
Why I prefer access to ownership for housing

In my next post, I’ll talk about why I’m interested in access, not ownership for housing. (AirBNB, micro-apartments, open-source housing, and more). It’s all part of the trend known as “collaborative consumption.” Here’s a good book on the topic:
What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption
What's Mine is Yours

This article is part 1 of a series. See also: Why I prefer access to ownership, part 2: housing

One thought on “Why I prefer access to ownership, part 1: cars, books and more

  1. Pingback: Why I prefer access to ownership, part 2: housing | A Location-Flexible Life

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