Why is the End of Physical Media Taking So Long?

I bought a blu ray player on Cyber Monday. My mom is constantly questioning why I would spend the money on such a device. She’ll admit there is a clearer picture, but claims that it’s not worth getting while the DVD player still works, and while another item will soon come along to replace it.

That clearer picture is the only reason I need to have spent the money. That’s just the way I am, after all I do write this blog that often concentrates on technology. What I question in her argument is why the entity that will replace blu rays will come along faster than blu rays replaced DVDs.

I have no doubt that entity will come along, be it a type of ‘3D blu ray disc’ or file that we download. I’m leaning towards the latter because there are a decreasing number of benefits to keep selling our media as physical objects—with the exception of the reasons I still buy all my media as physical objects.

There are a few reasons I get CDs, and now blu rays, when it is possible rather than running straight to iTunes. The first is that I, like a decreasing number of people, still place value in the physical packaging—the artwork, the booklet, the bonus content.

Another reason is that a CD is higher quality than an mp3. Finally, if a CD were to break, I lose a CD. If I were to download all my music onto my computer—I have almost ten days worth of music on about 250 albums on my external hard drive—and my computer crashes I’m out a heck of a lot of music, not to mention money.

I’m under no delusion, however. The majority of music sales will be digital within a few years. And it is inevitable that movies will follow.

My question, though, is what’s taking so long?

A few things need to happen before most of America jumps over to purchasing movies via the download. The first is that companies like iTunes need to give unlimited downloads to a file that you have purchased. If I buy Inception for $15 and my computer catches on fire, I can no longer watch it. Why should I have to pay again if I already bought it?

You might argue, “Well, if you buy it on blu ray and your house burns down, Best Buy won’t give you a another free copy.”

To which I say, “That is true, but we are no longer dealing with guns and butter here.”

The second thing is that people need somewhere to store these files. Assuming you would rather own the file rather than stream it (obviously Netflix is making a good chunk from streaming movies, but unless you’ve got a quick internet connection it simply won’t be HD-quality the whole time.)

Inception, in standard definition, is over 2GB. That would easily fit on an external hard drive you could get for less than 100 bucks, but that drive would fill up quickly with multiple movies and albums.

And all this assumes that you’re still watching it on your computer. TV accessibility is the next big factor.

Maybe I’m undercutting myself as someone who has only watched a movie and a half on his blu ray player, but we know it’ll be replaced just like VHS tapes were, but it’s a bigger deal because physical media only dies once. So what are we waiting for?”


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