Digital Media vs. Physical Media – My Thoughts

Digital media seems to be taking over the world these days with everything right at your finger tips whenever you want it. Whether it’s movies, video games, music, books, whatever, you never even have to leave your house to obtain any of these things. If you would have told me 10 years ago that my future self would eventually give up all physical media and move to all digital, I would have thought you were crazy.


When it comes to music, I’ve been all digital for a while now, more than 10 years. I can’t honestly remember the last time I bought a CD. I was listening mp3’s back in 1996-97 when I first started high school; before the days of Napster and Kazaa. Once Napster hit it big a few years later, a lot more people started to jump on the digital bandwagon, but only because you could pirate the songs for free. And I’ll admit that I did a bit of pirating myself, but most of the mp3’s I had at the time were me ripping the CDs that I had purchased over the years (and then subsequently selling those CDs on eBay because I no longer needed them… which would also be considered piracy cause I no longer owned the originals).

Once I got to college I had a little mp3 player that plugged into the bottom of my ericsson cell phone that I could plug a memory card into and listen to music through. This was right around the same time as the first iPod came out, but it was super expensive, and pretty large, so I opted for a smaller setup that worked for my train commute to and from classes each day. With the first iPod also came the iTunes store which is the first time people really had an easy way to buy the digital music they wanted.

After I graduated and I started making some actual money, I invested in an actual iPod (80gb iPod classic) which I still have to this day, but never use now that I have the iPhone.

With the many various options for streaming music these days I no longer really see a need for physical media (unless your an audiophile as there is definitely some compression with digital), and I really don’t see the need to purchase songs either. In our household we subscribe to Spotify and use it on a pretty regular basis. Thankfully I’m on a computer all day every day so I can listen to it on my desktop, but my wife uses it on her phone all the time so we have the paid version as well.

Movies/TV Shows

Up until a 2.5 years ago I had worked at the same company for 14 years, and for about 10 of those years we would take our lunch breaks on Tuesdays and go to Best Buy and buy DVDs (and eventually blu-rays). I would spend between $20-100 every single week on movies and TV shows thinking that I would just amass this huge collection and be the envy of everyone.

When digital video started hitting it big I refused to stop buying blu-rays because I thought the compression of the digital versions was terrible compared to the blu-ray version, and I enjoyed watching the special features that came on the physical discs.

Eventually I realized that I had been wasting a lot of money over the years on movies and TV shows that I would probably never watch more than once, so I signed up for Netflix instead; this was before Netflix streaming was a big thing. I still preferred by physical discs for a while after that, but eventually Netflix streaming blew up and they started to get more and more good releases in a decent amount of time.

It was around that point that I moved out of my parents house and didn’t have room for 1000 DVDs in my new apartment, so it was time to go digital. I began ripping all of my DVDs and using PLEX in order to serve them up to the TVs throughout the apartment; the DVDs themselves now reside in boxes in the storage unit.

At this point I don’t even think I have a Blu-ray player hooked up in the house other than the Xbox One. I gave one to my in-laws and the other one is sitting in storage as well. Instead of blu-ray players on each TV I either have a Roku, gaming console or the TV itself is a a SmartTV and can run Netflix, Amazon, and PLEX. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever go back to physical media when it comes to movies and TV shows ever again, but at least I know when 4K blu-rays (or whatever disc) comes out, I won’t be upgrading my current physical collection.

Video Games

I don’t do much PC gaming these days, but I do have a handful of games through the Steam service and I love it. So when Microsoft announced that the Xbox One would have the ability to download full games directly to the console, I was sold. I know the Xbox 360 had a similar feature, but my Xbox 360 only had a 12gb hard drive and it was pretty much full of DLC, so that wasn’t really an option. The Xbox One comes with at least a 500gb hard drive which will hold a fair amount of games, but I’ve already upgraded to a 2tb external to hold most of them.

I prefer digital video games over the physical copies for a few reasons.

1. I don’t have to go to the store. As much as I used to love going to Best Buy every Tuesday, that was when I was working in a life-sucking office and used any excuse I could to leave the building.

2. No more closets full of game cases and crap taking up space. Just a small 2tb hard drive sits in the media closet attached to the Xbox One and it holds all of my games.

3. Pre-loading games. If I pre-order a game from the digital store, the game will automatically start downloading a day or two before the actual release date, and will unlock for play at midnight on the day of the release. I was never one to go stand in line for games at midnight and play then when I got home, but it’s nice to know that the games are waiting for me on the console when I am ready to play on launch day.

4. Buy games online and they automatically start downloading on the console. As long as you have the right settings on your Xbox One, you can buy a game on the website and it will automatically start downloading onto your console without you having to do anything. It’s nice not having to step away from work to fire up the Xbox, buy a game, make sure the download started, and then shut everything down.

5. Game sharing. This isn’t really an advertised feature of the xbox one, but you are technically able to share your digital games with one other xbox console so that you don’t have to buy multiple copies of the game if you have two consoles in one house. I use this with my brother, who doesn’t live with me, and it allows us to share each others digital games with one another. The only problem right now is that he doesn’t have any digital games so he’s getting the better end of the stick there for now.

The only downside of going all digital when it comes to video games is that you can’t resell your games after you’ve beaten them. I’m hoping that they figure out a way to allow you to sell your digital license to someone after you’re done with it, but I’m not holding my breath. I’ve never been one to sell my games after I was done with them anyways (until my daughter was born and I needed to make some room), so this isn’t really a huge concern of mine. I also have Gamefly so that I don’t waste money on games that I know I’d beat in a week and never play again.

So overall when it comes to physical media vs digital media, these days I am all about the digital media. I enjoy having all my media available at the click of a button without having to leave my house. It’s this same reason why I use amazon for pretty much everything… if I didn’t have softball I might never leave the house these days… Ok, that’s a lie, I get stir crazy pretty quickly since I work from home, but not having to deal with retail stores is a huge plus in my book.


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