Although I have bought only about 5 physical CDs in the past few years, I own a few hundred CDs, cassettes, vinyl records, etc. I’m a huge music lover, of course. And I also worked at record stores for a few years – which made me ultra-aware of all the new and good music coming out, so I was tempted to buy so much stuff. I got a nice discount. And back before the economy and recording industry went majorly down, the record companies were generous with giving away free stuff, so I used to have free promo CDs coming out my ears. I have shelves, racks, towers, zipper booklet things, parts of book shelves, plastic bins, etc. full of CDs and tapes.

Although it might look cool to view all the CDs, it no longer feels cool. First of all, it takes a few minutes to find what I’m looking for (if I can find it at all and don’t just give up). It’s somewhat organized, but not totally. It used to be in order by category and alphabet, but after moving several times over the past few years, it’s just like meh. (Besides, even when it was in order, people would always take them out and not put them back in the right spot). And moving them all is a pain and takes several trips back and forth in big, heavy boxes. It seems to take too much time and effort – and space – than what it should, especially with today’s technology.

So here is the question I am debating in my head: Should I import all my CDs on a large external hard drive and get rid of the physical copies… or should I just keep on doing what I’m doing?

I know what I need to do with the cassettes. I don’t own nearly as many cassettes as CDs and I need to just go on eMusic and download the songs I liked from them and donate the tapes to Goodwill/Salvation Army.
And as far as the vinyl is concerned, I’m keeping most of them.

Now I’m considering getting rid of most of my physical copies of CDs and only keeping the CDs that are special (my super favorite ones, albums that I played on, ones that are out of print/hard to find/imports, limited edition versions, etc.) The only time I even use a CD player is on my computer. And that, of course, is capable of playing the mp3 versions.

The geeky and practical side of me says:
Do it! Buy a 1 TB external hard drive and import them all there. You can sell the CDs to a record store and whatever they won’t take, just donate to Goodwill or the library. You will save so much space. Moving will be much easier the next time around. You will be much more likely to hear all your CDs because you can play them on shuffle and go through your library. If you’re looking for a song or album, you can just type what you’re looking for. So much easier! And aside from your beautiful vinyl records, you’re pretty much over the whole "but I have to hold the CD in my hands and own a physical copy of it" mentality. You’re trying to be more efficient, organized, practical, and less of a packrat. You’re doing a good job so far compared to how you used to be. So why haven’t you done this already, dummy?!

The paranoid side of me says:
Sure, it will be a lot easier to find anything in your collection and much easier when moving time comes along, but it’s even easier for someone to just steal your life’s collection! And you can’t afford to buy two hard drives (one of them for backup) so if something happens, you’re screwed. The hard drive could just crap out for an unknown reason, it could get damaged, and again – someone could steal it! Sure, people could still steal your CDs, but at least they’d only make off with a few. That’s better than losing years of music collecting. You could buy a safe to put it in, but those things aren’t cheap. And will you really feel like putting it in the safe every night before you go to bed or every time you leave the house? And even with the safe, it could still stop working due to a technical error.

Now some of you might be thinking: "Just rip them all on a hard drive but keep the original CDs somewhere just in case". But that would really be defeating the purpose.

So what should do? I’m leaning toward the geeky/practical logic. But I’m paranoid that I’d be making the wrong decision.