Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Now's The Time to Buy DVDs and Blu-Rays

I continue to fill out my movie collection. It's astonishing to see so many great titles available for just a few bucks, particularly second-hand (I only buy big studio films second-hand; smaller filmmakers need my support). Right now, you can build a great film library for the lowest cost in history. But the opportunity is fleeting. This is a transitional period en route to a future where all media will be streamed.

Streaming offers certain advantages (convenience, no physical storage) but there are downsides:

1. Extras
It remains to be seen if streaming companies find a way to show the sort of extras (commentary tracks, outtakes, etc.) that are available on DVD and Blu-Ray. My guess is they won't. Extras currently serve as enticements for disk buyers. In an all-streaming future, producers may lack incentive to create them. So the extras currently available only on disk media may die with that media. By buying disks now, I'm assured access.

2. Obedience
Different titles (and different editions of each title) are available in different areas at different prices. I hacked my DVD player to play all regions (Google your model number; instructions for many models are available on the web), and buy plenty of region 2 DVDs from Amazon.co.uk. In a streaming future, I'll only be able to view what the powers that be want me to view. Buy buying disks now, I'll hold on to that freedom.

3. Obscurity
Netflix is considered to offer a very "long tail" of options. But their idea of obscure films and mine are very different. I own stuff on DVD (e.g. custom burns from small filmmakers) that Netflix has never heard of. And in the future, when one or two huge corporations control all streaming media, selection may narrow further still. By buying disks now, I'll be well stocked with great little films that may eventually be lost to public viewing.

DVDs were made obsolete by Blu-Ray, and Blu-Ray's already obsolete before having fully caught on. The market knows these are dead-end formats, and is pricing them accordingly. Blu-Ray disks, in particular, are available at fire sale prices - often cheaper than DVDs of the same film. As a result, people are unloading their DVDs and Blu-Rays en masse, resulting in ridiculously cheap second-hand prices (check Amazon.com and Half.com). This presents an unprecedented opportunity to stock up, and that's what I've been doing. You might want to, too!

Non-technical people sometimes over-fear obsolescence, failing to realize that their equipment will continue to do whatever it always did, regardless. An obsolete format doesn't cease to deliver. So long as my DVD and Blu-Ray players work (or replacements are available), my library will continue to be available to me (and there are cheap Blu-Ray players out there).

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