Discs vs. digital copies: A movie fanatic’s struggle

At this point in time, digital media is the way of the future. With music and books, the progression of transferring physical copies of media to digital versions is ongoing, and does not seem to be abating. Movies seem to be the next subjects in this digital evolution.

Try to remember when you first began transferring your music to your computer instead of popping in a CD. Where you sad about that? Did you feel any kind of loss, or did it just seem like the next step in the technical age? Perhaps it took you a while to give in to the technology, or perhaps you maybe still prefer using CDs or even vinyl records as means of listening to music.

Photo: ‘(500) Days of Summer’ – Fox Searchlight Pictures (2009)

Either way, people couldn’t ignore the change happening. Digital music downloads forever revolutionized the way people listened, transferred, and bought their music, and people were affected by it even if they didn’t partake in the transition themselves. Music sales suffered, and although they were slightly relieved by products such as iTunes and Amazon, they truly will never be the same.

Photo: ‘Notting Hill’ – Universal Pictures (1999)

Right now I feel like we are also in the process of such a transition with books, and the fact that paper book sales are dwindling among the new technologies of e-readers/tablets and their e-books. Brick-and-mortar stores are closing around us, and e-readers are the hot commodity for people on the go who like the idea of having all of their books in one place, similar to the way people can have all of their music stored on one iPod instead of hundreds of CDs.

Is this the direction people really want to head with all of their media?

It seems that way, as movies are becoming the next products to be digitally collected and shared on our electronic devices.

With companies like Netflix and OnDemand services rising in popularity, movies are no longer being physically rented for viewing as they once were, forcing stores like Blockbuster to go out of business around the country. People can conveniently pick a movie to watch on their TV or computer and not have to leave their houses.

Don’t get me wrong, instant access to movies is a brilliant idea, and has significantly increased the convenience factor for everyone who wants to have the spontaneity of renting a movie. However, this is becoming a trend now with buying movies as well. Instead of picking up the physical copy of a movie at the store, someone can now simply go onto a program like iTunes and instantly download the film to watch on various portable devices. Sure, these people will not get as many special features along with their downloads, but a lot of people may not mind, going for the digital convenience of the process instead.

Companies have been addressing this digital transition by including digital copies along with the physical discs in some Blu-ray/DVD packages, letting the owner watch the film on all platforms. However, it’s difficult to beat the ease of clicking a button to watch your new movie right away. These companies also are helping people move towards having an all-digital movie library, and they are showing how easy it is to watch it on the go with the digital copy they provided instead of the actual disc.

Photo: ‘Pretty in Pink’ – Paramount Pictures (1986)

This technological evolution seems inevitable, whether it is a negative one or not. I think what is interesting is that people certainly have varying opinions on the issue. For me, digitizing my music library was a no-brainer. I was pretty young at the time, had no huge collection of CDs or cassettes, so I figured this was a great way to start keeping all of my music in one place to take with me everywhere, instead of hassling with the CD wallets I would fill up and carry on car trips.

As for books, I feel a bit more sensitive about the transition. I’m a huge fan of bookstores and paper books, despite their ridiculous prices at times. I believe that this is one area where e-books are suffering, as they cannot always offer prices that are significantly lower than the paper books. Nevertheless, I love opening a book, smelling the new pages, and seeing how far I’ve read, as if it’s some sort of accomplishment. I’m an English major, so I’ve put in my time marking up pages with thoughts and underlining key phrases, which don’t seem to hold the same weight when electronically noted.

Photo: ‘When Harry Met Sally…’ – Columbia Pictures (1989)

I do have an e-reader that I love, but it gets pretty hot when I read outside in the summer, making this a downside to going electronic. I’m also afraid to take it to the beach lest I should get sand in it somehow and ruin it. Nevertheless, it sure is convenient to take on trips and have multiple books at my disposal that I am able to buy at a decent price, and the definition tool is pretty handy.

This brings me to movies. As you can tell by my blog, movies hold a special place in my heart that cannot be matched with music and books. Perhaps this is why I feel most strongly about owning physical copies of the films I buy. I like having my movies on display, showing how varied my tastes are and exemplifying pieces of my personality. One look at my shelf and people can think, “Wow, this girl likes her movies” (or maybe, “Wow, she is obsessed”…). I’m also a huge fan of behind-the-scenes features, so I need the hours of documentaries and “making of” specials to make my movie viewing experience complete.

Photo: ‘The Holiday’ – Columbia Pictures/Universal Pictures (2006)

Digital copies of movies are great. They are nice to have on my iPod or computer to travel with, but I can only justify downloading them if they come with my physical copy. Unless you have the technology to display these movies on your TV (which I’m sure everyone soon will), you cannot watch them easily with other people. Besides, these copies do not have the high definition picture quality and sound that the Blu-ray discs can offer. In addition, my laptop cannot handle the memory space of holding multiple movies on it, so when I have to put them on an external hard drive, it makes it difficult to have access at all times to my movies.

What I have found is that the media I am most attached to is the media I am most stubborn to see go digital; this is probably how it works with most people. Music enthusiasts will roll their eyes at the lesser audio quality of mp3s, and bookworms will probably forever be devoted to the yellowing pages and beautiful bindings of their paper novels. While I believe the movie industry has a ways to go yet before making discs technologies of the past, I do not doubt that it’s the path it is on. Time will only tell if it is for better or worse.

What is your opinion on the technological advances in digital media? Do you prefer the physical copies or digital when it comes to music, books, and/or movies?


2 thoughts on “Discs vs. digital copies: A movie fanatic’s struggle


    Seriously though, are we the same person? I went digital with my music a little while ago. It’s definitely convenient when you want a song right away, but I still buy the CDs of my favorite artists. There’s just something about having that in my hand that means something more than text on a screen. As for books? I have a Nook, which I wouldn’t have gotten for myself but it was a Christmas present. The only books on there are ones that were free or ones that don’t really mean anything to me. I have shelves and shelves of books and I prefer it that way. And if I have one physical book in a series, they all have to be physical copies.

    As for movies, I don’t have any digital copies on my computer (although some of my DVDs did come with that choice). I can’t imagine buying a movie and not having the DVD in my hands or on my shelf (where room is rapidly disappearing). I think that’s the only way I would go digital – because I’m quickly running out of places to put them. But not any time soon. I’ll get creative with techniques for space optimization before that happens.

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