Is the DVD Shelf replacing the Bookshelf?

(This is just a random picture I grabbed off Flickr.  Not a photo of the DVD collection of anyone I know.)

Something I've noticed more frequently when visiting friends and family (and even on occasion when I get access to strangers' homes – ie. going to check out used baby items or whatever) is that lots of people have a shelf full of DVD's in a prominent place in their home while the bookshelves, if they have them at all, are hidden in bedrooms or basements and are often a lot smaller then the space given over to movies. 

I'm someone who doesn't think libraries should see themselves in competition with places like Chapters and Rogers Video except in the broadest sense of competing for people's limited leisure time.  How can a place that offers pretty much everything it has – products and services – for no charge be competing with a place that charges (overcharges – have you rented a new release or bought a hard cover book lately?) for everything? 

But conversely, I am very aware that books are in competition with movies and other entertainment options.  And I sometimes wonder if books are losing out?  The stats about books published per year would indicate otherwise, the 12 million initial print run for the final Harry Potter indicate otherwise and it's been proven that people are reading more than ever (although maybe not books – the range of what is “reading” also includes Internet sites, magazines, newspapers, gaming manuals, comic books and graphic novels – at least in my definition.)

Comments 7

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    I love books and I love movies, and I'd say my collections are on par with each other. However, I can think of some rationalizations for the dvd collection being bigger than the book collection (other than the sad idea that no one reads anymore…) for one: gifts. I've always found that if people want 'gift ideas' for holidays or birthdays, they are really happy to just go pick up a cd or dvd and this is an area where they are also comfortable to exercise personal judgment: 'oh michelle loves this kinda movie..she'll like this one'.
    Conversely, I think people are more afraid to choose a book for someone, I think the act of consuming and reading a book is considered an extremely personal act; people don't feel like they can exercise their judgment as freely in this area.
    I also think the library might have something to do with it, I know that my family and I have used the library much more frequently than retailers to obtain reading material over the years. The library is a grand place for those who must consider a new hardcover to be a luxury. Throughout my lean undergraduate years, I continued with the same practice and my family makes excellent use of the public library system to this day (which btw, I also do with dvds).
    Granted, I might just have my little mary sunshine blinders on here.. 😛

    Posted 18 Mar 2007 at 11:07 pm
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    I think that you are on the right track. My close friends will buy me books because they know my taste and due to the sheer volume that they read, they've probably come accross something recently that made them think of me. Otherwise, people tend to buy CDs and DVDs — not because they know my taste any better in that regard, though. My guess is that there are fewer choices in the mainstream movie market, and the “types” of movies tend to be less specialized. Where there might be dozens, or hundreds of books published each year in any given genre or style, there are probably only a handfull or a dozen movies in those genres in any given year. As a gift, movies are blunt yet effective instrument because the choices are mercifully limited.
    Cate and I usually buy each other DVDs for gifts — mostly so that we know that it will be used. Our lives are in the “too busy to commit to numerous consecutive evenings of reading” category right now.
    A second factor is that while reading a book is highly personal, watching a movie can be highly social. It's one thing to share your thoughts about a book with your partner, it's quite another to have her nails digging into your arm while you watch a movie together. It's easier to blow off the dishes or laundry for shared experiences than solitary ones.
    So, yeah, lots of reasons for literate people to have more DVDs than books on the shelf.

    Posted 19 Mar 2007 at 3:39 pm
  3. Anonymous wrote:

    Seriously, who still buys DVDs? My Bittorrent collection, however, is quite large.
    In case you were wondering, I see this same argument playing out in the library space as well.
    NOT that books will disappear, rather, they will have a different use, primarily historically. Authors will still exist, documents will still exist, its just that those physical pieces of paper will only be kept around in archives, but not libraries. Look at the ubiquity of MP3s–sure, many people still buy CDs, heck, even vinyl, but soon MP3s will become cheaper than CDs (reduced distribution costs, DRM protection, etc. will bring forth this transition). E-ink, naturally, will be the medium that moves the paper book into the archive.

    Posted 19 Mar 2007 at 10:47 pm
  4. Anonymous wrote:

    Frankly, I can't believe Blockbuster and Rogers are still in business let alone that new rental places are opening (Cinematic just opened in Regina –
    Rental DVD's are horrible for being scratched and otherwise abused so I don't know how long they can survive with legal digital downloads on the horizon (your BT downloads were legal, right? )
    Libraries are in a tough spot too – patrons demand DVD's but they probably get abused even more because they are “free” and I think libraries probably have less recourse for proper damage compensation than commercial places that base a big part of their business model on collecting overdue and other fees.
    Sure, the point of this post is owning DVD's which gives you control over their condition. But for those of us who don't buy for whatever reason, rentals are still an option – albeit an often frustrating one. Actually, I can't remember the last rental DVD I didn't have to fight with at least a bit to get past stutters and stalls.
    I too, have moved towards a BT model for some of my movie viewing although Shea and I do occasionally go to the theatre (mostly the discount one which charges like $3 for a couple month old movie) and I do risk library DVD's quite a bit too. We also sometimes rent PPV movies for their convenience.
    Finally buying a cable to allow me to watch downloaded movies on our TV helped.

    Posted 20 Mar 2007 at 4:58 am
  5. Anonymous wrote:

    The thing is, I've never had a problem with suggesting books to people who are looking to buy me gifts. Instead of just saying I want books though, I usually give a few specific title suggestions (5-10) and they go from there. Sometimes they get me a book from my list, sometimes they get me something similar.
    I don't know – maybe that's crossing some “it's the gift that matters?” line?
    But I'd rather get a copy of “No Logo” that I specifically told my sister I wanted than the newest George Carlin book which wasn't on the list of books I gave them but was obviously something they knew I'd be interested in and which I did appreciate (although if I'm being honest, I read “No Logo” the next day and still haven't finished the Carlin book.)

    Posted 20 Mar 2007 at 5:20 am
  6. Anonymous wrote:

    That's a good point about DVD's being a better fit for family/couple time than books. Plus a book takes a sustained commitment whereas a movie is a 90 or 120 minute commitment that doesn't require full attention (“Who's that guy again?” “Why'd she shoot him?” etc.)
    I don't know – I can see the extent of my DVD collection from here:
    The Princess Bride
    Slap Shot
    Trainspotting (got at a garage sale for like $3)
    Fred Eaglesmith DVD
    Hawksley Workman DVD
    – a couple burned CD's of folk music artists at festivals a friend gave me.

    Posted 20 Mar 2007 at 5:27 am
  7. Anonymous wrote:

    I didn't address this in my post so I'll stick it here – why don't I buy DVD's myself or ask for them as gifts?
    – part of it is I used to buy a lot of cassettes then a lot of CD's and I saw both become obsolete (CD's are on the edge of obsolescence right now). Same with friends who used to have massive VHS collections which are all now collecting dust and I see something similar on the horizon for DVD's. Books have a permance that hasn't been supplanted by any other technology…yet.
    – I think there's a bit of a network effect that happens. If you only own five DVD's like I do, there's not much choice. But if you get dozens or hundreds of DVD's, there's always something you haven't watched for awhile to pick.
    – as I mentioned in my reply to Quinn, I can go and rent a movie for $2-3 if I really want to see it (although I admit that usually leads to frustration) instead of buying it for $10 or $20.
    – there are very few movies I like enough to make me want to own them so I can watch them over and over again. There are probably 25-50 movies that I would like to own as a base collection – my favourites that I would want to watch over and over.
    – as I also said to Quinn, I've increasingly begun creating a collection of downloaded movies which already easily outpaces my DVD collection and does form part of this “base” collection I want. Part of the appeal is that they're free obviously but I would likely pay for downloaded movies that were DRM-free and reasonably priced.
    In fact, a hypothetical walk down the hall to my hypothetical office to plug into my external hard drive, reveals this as my current hypothetical digital movie collection:
    A Clockwork Orange
    Battle Royale
    Breakfast Club
    Dazed & Confused
    Fahrenheit 9/11
    Ferris Buehlers Day Off
    High Fidelity
    Napoleon Dynamite
    Natural Born Killers
    Office Space
    Pulp Fiction
    Reservoir Dogs
    Rocky I
    The Blair Witch Project
    The Boondock Saints
    True Romance
    US vs. John Lennon
    Waking Life
    Wizard of Oz (with Pink Floyd soundtrack)
    I rarely watch these movies but like knowing I have them to watch if the urge strikes. Hypothetically. (Buying a networked external drive someday will go a long way to solving the problem of limited space on my hard drive but storing them on an external drive I don't keep anywhere near my TV. Hmmm…there's an idea.)
    Oh yeah, and no one said this but just to clarify – no insult was intended to anyone who owns DVD's as well as books (or even more DVD's then books.)
    If there was an insult, it was to people who own shitloads of DVD's but absolutely *no* books whatsoever – hopefully nobody reading this thread.

    Posted 20 Mar 2007 at 5:46 am

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