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Avoid impulse buys on digital products

india Updated: Jun 27, 2010 23:40 IST
N Madhavan

I fell for the looks of a nice portable DVD player the other day. At less than Rs. 5,000, I had an impulse to buy it. “Wow!” I said, I can lean on the bed and watch a movie.

But suddenly, I gave up the idea.

I realised I have a very good laptop computer, which will do just as well. In fact, it has a larger screen. It might be a different thing when I can buy myself a connected slate computer (like an Apple iPad).

This goes to show a basic wisdom we all need these days, as digital gizmos crowd the market. On the one hand, things can substitute for one another. On the other, too may might clog up your living rooms. Again, the prices of these things tend to crash.

Only last week, I wrote you should expect e-reader prices to crash, and the very next day, Amazon and Barnes & Noble announced 25 per cent price cuts.

So, before you buy a digital product, spare a thought. Of course, this is not to discourage you from buying stuff, but to just be smart about it—be it on the price, utility or the space involved. Once you have given it a good thought, you can go ahead.

For instance, you can play an audio CD on a high-end LCD television set with good sound quality. You can now buy a projector for as low as Rs. 20,000 with a co-axial cable. Since you get set-top boxes from direct-to-home broadcasters, you can simply project the signal on the wall, with movie-like effect. Why buy a TV at all?

Or you can get a TV tuner inside your PC and turn it into a TV. In families with several members, smart thinking can make everyone happy.

On prices, I have talked about the “law of diminishing digital returns.” Don’t buy a gadget unless you expect to use it in good measure right away, because a month later, you can find cheaper stuff. (Happened to me recently with a 10 megapixel digital camera, but I am glad I bought mine before an overseas tour in which the pictures justified the increased price paid).

Even music can now be bought one song at a time and downloaded on your computer. Are you sure you want that whole CD?