I’ve sat in a lot of corporate strategic planning sessions in many companies over the years. If there were ever a corporate “mantra” it would be this: The continuous revenue stream, aka, massive passive revenue. Frankly, selling something is exhausting. “From hero to zero” is a common expression among sales people, used to describe what happens just after you’ve made a sale. The accolades quickly die down and you’re expected to once again pick yourself up and go make the next sale.

The Holy Grail of sales and marketing has always been the creation of something that you only have to sell once and then the customer is obliged to keep buying on a never-ending merry-go-round. I’m not sure if you’ve quite realized it yet, but we have found that Holy Grail in the form of the ethereal electron which fuels our digital existence.

I own a number of apps on my various iDevices. I use the word “own” very cavalierly, because in fact, the only thing I own is a portal into a never-ending cycle of purchases, most automatically renewing and charged imperceptibly to my credit card. I physically own nothing. Oh, I have paid full-price for my purchases, but I don’t actually own anything beyond the device and the app used to create the portal to what are essentially rentals of services.  I realized this yesterday as I sat on the airplane on the way home from Toronto, and settled in to read a book on my iPad Kindle app.

My many book “purchases” were there, but for some reason (the conservation of space I can only guess) the app had unloaded and archived them, making them no longer accessible. “Book not available” it said. “Please re-download”. But hey fellas, I’m on an airplane; there’s no internet access!! So I sat there for the hour and a half, listening to music instead. When I got home and tried to download the books back onto my device, it wouldn’t allow it, asking me instead to “deregister” my device, go back to Amazon.com, re-register the device, and then re-download all the books I had already purchased. After I had done this, all my books magically re-appeared in working order.

It struck me though, that the idea of buying something is  nothing more than an illusion these days. Unless you are prepared to stay “old school” and just buy the “hard” version of everything, you are completely at the mercy of these new-generation rental agents who can give or take what you have purchased at their discretion. It’s all a little too Orwelian for me.

Tip: If you’re going to be traveling, make sure all your apps are up to date and working before you get on the plane.