Going digital-only

Over Christmas, we moved again. This time, into the house we bought1. One of the more useful things that falls out of the process of moving is that it gives you an opportunity to take account of your possessions. There’s nothing like packing everything you own into boxes and carting them off to another place to make you realise how much shit you own.

Well, somewhere around the 30th box or so, I had an epiphany. I have too much stuff.

“Duh, asshole. This isn’t news.”

No, you’re not listening to what I’m saying. I’m saying that my internal understanding – my mental self-image – suddenly went from “I have a lot of stuff” to “I have too much stuff”. As in, I could easily offload three-quarters of my DVD collection and not really feel the loss. Which is why I’m sort of glad that HMV is gone. As a nerd who loves movies and games, its disappearance leaves me with fewer places to buy these things in Dublin, fewer avenues of temptation. This is a perfect opening for me to re-evaluate my relationship with these things and how they come into my life. A lot has already changed.

Books: Kindle My kindle has completely transformed my relationship with books. I also count this as the thing that completely turned me onto the idea of digital, rather than physical ownership of media. I realised that I had been fetishizing the form, not the content.

Comics: ComiXology I haven’t bought a physical comic in at least a year now. Sorry, Forbidden Planet! Maybe if you weren’t missing volume 1 of every series I’d like to check out, y’know?

Games: Steam, Xbox Live, PSN, Wii U e-shop I feel like, of everything listed here, games are the best represented in the digital market. Each platform has its own storefront (Steam isn’t official, but it is the de-facto standard on PC) and it’s only getting easier and cheaper to buy digital versions of things.

Movies: ?

And this takes me to the point of this post. Yesterday, Philips announced that they were exiting the consumer electronics market. This line jumped out for me:

“Since we have online entertainment, people do not buy Blu-ray and DVD players anymore,” Mr. Van Houten said.

I think this ties in with what I’m saying - there’s very little need to own physical copies of digital media. Consumers are realising this and HMV, having built the core of its market around selling DVDs and Blu-Rays, couldn’t adapt.

But I have a question about all this. People aren’t buying Blu-rays or DVDs any more. So what are they actually buying? Is the lack of a standard for downloaded video harming adoption/uptake, just like we saw when HD-DVD and Blu-ray were competing to see which would be the dominant format? Also, until there is a standard, should we expect the price of digital-only movie purchases to remain high?2

  1. This is a whole other blog post, but holy fuck, we bought a house↩︎

  2. Take Dredd for example (one of my favourite films of last year). On the US iTunes store, it’s $19.99 (€15) for the HD version of the movie plus the ‘iTunes Extras’, the iTunes versions of DVD extras. On the Irish store, it’s €17 for the movie by itself. I’m sure they’re waiting for more Irish people to be interested in buying movies from iTunes before adding features and dropping the price, but without dropping the price or adding these features, how do they expect to encourage this interest? ↩︎