Lately, Peter and I have been enjoying digital video. We can watch foreign shows without having to worry about regional DVD formatting; we can pick up TV shows we forgot to schedule on our PVR (or which weren’t recorded because of power failure); and we don’t have to go anywhere or wait for the mailman in order to watch what we want, when we want. There aren’t any worries about scratched disks, or flaky DVD drives: if the computer program (or for that matter, our Playstation 3) can read the format, we can watch it as easily as switching channels on TV.
Right now, the digital video format is in a transitional stage, somewhat like digital music used to be. You can buy episodes of some TV shows from various vendors, like Apple’s iTunes, and this is the root cause of the ongoing writer’s strike. But you can get many more programs for free, even though Peter and I would be perfectly willing to pay, for say, all the episodes of last year’s Pop Idol or the complete run of Postman Pat.
And once I reflected on this, I realized a lot of businesses have already caught on to this trend. Netflix makes quite a few movies and TV shows available directly via the internet from their website: all you need is to be a Netflix subscriber. Amazon has started offering downloadable books (though you need their proprietary device to read them); and my library has electronic versions of popular and rare books on its website, for which they provide the reader. And of course, we’re all familiar with downloadable music, which has already surpassed sales of physical CDs, despite the fact that mp3s can be copied and shared more easily than physical media. Additional songs–and just the songs we might want– for our favorite computer game, Rock Band, can be purchased for a minimal price, and the very sale benefits both the game manufacturer and the recording artist.
It seems odd to think of our books, DVDs, and CDs going away and being replaced by something we can just get off a household server or a small digital device we carry around with us. But maybe I’m just being old-fashioned, because the new way is decidedly better than the old, in many ways.