Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Digression: Digital Media re-Revisited

While preparing to hit the road, the thought occurred to me: "Why don't you throw a movie onto the iPod, just in case there's nothing to do?"

My initial reaction - which, incidentally, is why I'm writing this - was to say "Nah. Do I really need to watch another movie on my iPod? It's a bit silly, this whole digital media business."

The more I think about it, the less convinced I am that the whole "digital revolution" is really going to kill out dvds and (as some are already proclaiming) Blu-Rays. It's not an illogical position; digital media doesn't eat up physical space, you can take it anywhere on a drive of varying sizes, and they look pretty good. The problem is that it lacks tangibility.

Maybe the Cap'n is a Luddite - folks have accused me of being far worse - but even when transferring my music over to digital files, I still kept most of the cds. I bring the along from time to time, but for the most part I don't mind having the digital equivalent.

Movies, on the other hand, I'm far more inclined to carry the dvd, Blu-Ray, or occasionally VHS copy with me. Rather than saying "hey, I've got _____ movie(s) on my portable drive", I can bring one or two movies and say "look what I brought!" Sometimes, careful selection of just the right movie for just the right group of people can be more important than bringing everything over and asking them to choose.

I don't know about the rest of you, but there are innumerable hours wasted in this apartment trying to find a movie to watch. There is such a thing as "too many good options", and I'll waste the equivalent of one or two films just trying to pick the one I want to watch. Then I don't watch any of them. It's silly. It's why I'm glad Netflix has a queue limit, and why I imposed a much tighter one for myself. Otherwise, the amount of fine material would be debilitating.

That, in many ways, is how I feel about the "hard drive full of movies" that digital media represents. Try getting a room full of people to decide on one movie and see how long it takes, particularly if the options increase dramatically. Sometimes it's a good thing to just bring one along with you, to pop open the case, and let the disc do its magic.

Other, minor, quibbles like the lack of extra material or compatibility issues with certain players also hampers the experience, but I think my big reason for choosing the disc format over the intangible format is simply that I like holding dvds, like I like holding books. Perhaps one day the Cap'n will come around to seeing things like you "normals", but in the meantime I'll stick with my shelves of flicks, even if it is hard to narrow down that "perfect" movie.

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