“You Can’t Touch This”, but you should want to.


There will be a time in the very near future that physical media will no longer be sold in retail, this is a devastating fact. The days of riding a bike just to get to Blockbuster Video after school have been well past us, and soon even low priced super stores such as Wal-Mart will run out of reasons to keep that $5 movie bin in the aisles (for me, that was a way I found out what $5 value was). I am here to change that perspective. I am someone who places physical media as the pinnacle of togetherness and learning. I plan to explain what physical media means to me and what it should mean to you, whether you are 15 and only know Netflix as a way to watch Movies and TV shows or if you are an elder looking for the VHS player in the cabinet.

Let me say this much; I was born in 1994. This was right at the beginning of public use of the internet aka the World Wide Web. Broadband Internet and windows for computers had just started making their mark on the world and not many homeowners even owned personal computers (Isn’t it Ironic how personal computers got their big break from people using computers in libraries only for them to replace libraries 20 years later?). I grew up in the perfect era to address this topic because I am old enough to have experienced technology’s evolution and I am also young enough in 2019 to understand the new wave of technology that gets pumped out daily.

A digital world is something that is exciting and yes has it’s many perks. We have instant access services where customers can use what they pay for almost immediately, there are downloads so many don’t need to leave their homes or set ups, and also we have more compact memory inside devices now where we can store multitudes of data and take it with us unlike yesteryear’s external memory peripherals. Digital media provides clutter-free living or work spaces as well. Having multiple eye-sores in the home or office isn’t exactly what most people go for when purchasing interior design. But what if I told you, if done properly those eye-sores could turn into wow factors, or that having a library of books can put together a home like nothing else could?

To some people a physical media collection is a cornucopia of culture waiting for the intrigued mind to wander with it. Whether it be games, books, movies, etc. There is a certain level of joy, no…satisfaction when gathering multiple pieces to a collection. If nothing else, they are great conversation pieces; “When’d you get this many? I didn’t know you were into__, How much did that one cost?” Most conversations start along those lines. Lines of endearment and admiration. Besides have you seen the cover art for most of physical media? That alone could make a grown man cry. The art is beautiful. It already gets you ready for whatever it is you will be indulging in (Don’t get me started on collectors items). Digital media doesn’t give you that opportunity to host genuine human intrigue from onlookers without you, yourself, looking like a braggart. “Hey man let me get my $500 tablet. I’ve got over 50 movies downloaded on to it and still have room for more because I just bought 865gb megadrive. I’ll let you put your head down and scroll through all of them.” See how that sounds?

With all jokes aside I believe it is time I got into the meat and potatoes of why physical media should not meet its demise yet, nor ever.

With digital media there are 2 truths that should caution people about its longevity and practicality. The first is that it isn’t always protected. People all over now have ways to access your sensitive information. In our case this usually means credit card info, usernames, or passwords. If you want my physical media you will have to go through a lot more hoops to pirate my property than work the computer for a few hours that’s for darn sure. Aside from that, digital media doesn’t have the same sharing capacity that physical media still has today. Sure we can share our logins and credentials but a lot of that can be convoluted and costly. Many subscriptions now monitor that activity and block their content to prevent you from even sharing so much as a movie with your buddy and most of the time services won’t let you be logged in at more than one at a time (if so, they’ll have a limited amount of users per account). Back in the day we used to bring our games and movies to school and trade them before the weekend. We had no money, but we always had some new content for the weekend. Also at times when someone shares their information for use somewhere else it kicks off the original user and completely logs them out each time which is a completely impractical way to share (That’s because it wasn’t designed to share. They want as much money as possible so everyone better get their own stuff). Humans were designed to share. So with physical media it came naturally to us. We want people to enjoy what we enjoy and if that can’t happen at least understand what it is that makes us, us. Digital media denies us that human transaction.

My least favorite part of its lack of security is that it isn’t always promised to be there. Some have firmware, store, or company updates that won’t support the certain media after a certain amount of time. They didn’t necessarily do anything to the property you paid for per say but they did make your streaming no longer compatible with the newest platform. Looks like you’ll have to buy it again but this time only ‘New and Improved!’ The worst part comes when you get blind sided by it too. For instance if you made a purchase and then revisit that purchase two months later and find out that due to the newest update the download can no longer be found. Or if you needed to delete that purchase to make room for something else and decided to revisit it later and the download was unavailable again. Even if people get their money back, it is still not a win or break even. The psychology behind it is that they were willing to give up that money for that specific good because in their mind they valued it to be greater than the dollars that they had possessed. So people had the thought of getting something better than their dollar amount with that product right? Imagine that with anything and it applies. That’s what happens when we purchase goods, we assume their values are higher than what we are buying them for, and that’s what makes them worth buying. Not everyone is guilty though. Services such as PlayStation and Xbox do a good job with not getting rid of the ability to re-download or stream, and I don’t want to hear about how “that doesn’t happen”, because I will just direct you straight to the Apple app store where they habitually cut off apps and games because of those reasons. With physical media, you will always have it. Darn that apple grrrr.

The second truth is that ownership is always in question. When people buy digitally they often don’t read fine print user agreements, I mean who knows, maybe you just agreed to a 15% tax every 3 months just for owning the material, and since it is digital it can’t be truly deleted. I know that’s out there in left field but like I said its probably happened. Check that fine print people.

Mainly what I am getting at is that people don’t usually understand the full use of what they are purchasing nor do not get a chance to use their new property in ways they wish they could or planned for. When people buy physical, they know exactly what it is that they are getting. The user agreement is right there when the cashier says,”Thanks, come again.” When this happens, people are free to do whatever they want to with their media. They could use it, lend it to a friend who doesn’t have one, sell it, trade it, or even leave it up on the shelf to collect dust if they wished. Furthermore, with digital media once you buy it that’s it. There is no selling it somewhere else to make a profit when you feel done with it, there is no trading for something you may want to use next. You are bound to the media and it is a massive bummer. My favorite thing about physical media is that once it is purchased it is yours and it is a one time purchase, no more paying to keep it in your library. Because is it really yours if you have to keep paying for it? Hmmm? That’s the beauty in physical media right there!

For years now the transition has become more and more apparent and it all rides on the C word, yes– ‘convenience’. If its convenient than it must be good right? Well, this blerb is not simply to debate this vs that, its one that can show people that it doesn’t need to be this or that. Physical media teaches us how to keep track and take care of what we have. It shows us the reality of certain things. An example would be the difference between seeing a 400 page eBook that says 1/400 for the first time vs seeing a 400 page hardcover for the first time. It puts thing into our plane, seeing a book that thick gets you to first say, “Woah.” and second to see that that is someone’s exceptional effort manifested into paper right in front of your eyes. It can change how to feel about things and you’ll never get those feelings with digital media. This is why I claim that physical media is the pinnacle of togetherness and learning.

I am not advocating for the halt of the new age no no no. I simply want us to not forget the value of our past. Look what happened to politics. Earth’s climate. Lebron James’s hairline. We always want things back to the way they used to be when its too late, then society moves on instead of appreciating what was right in front of us. What is wrong with having both and choosing which one suits you? All of those negatives that I mentioned for digital media are what physical media does best but that doesn’t mean it is without its flaws. We have gotten to this notion that one must die so the other may live and it doesn’t apply.

We need to cultivate more of the good that we have on our nice green pasture instead of wondering if the other side may be…well you know the phrase. 😉

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