Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Problem with DVDs.

I was watching Apocalypto last night on a copy that I had checked out from the library, after months spent on the waiting list. Everything is fine, no skips or jumps, until 1 hour and 8 minutes (+/-) into the movie. Then, the DVD stalls, skips ahead 1 minute, stalls again, skips ahead 20 minutes, stalls again, and skips ahead another 30 minutes. This process took about 30 seconds. Luckily, I was able to remove the disc, clean it, and finish watching to movie without any more problems. This is not always the case.
DVDs are too sensitive in their current form to provide a shelf life that justifies their cost to the library. Sure, they check out exponentially more times than most books, but only if they find a way to escape the scratches. A library with, many times a day, check out a DVD that cannot function fully and properly. Would they check out a book that is missing pages? Or completely water damaged? No. The difference is that library staff can much more easily spot books and other media that are damaged, whereas detecting damaged DVDs is more art than science. Also, it seems as if patrons have come to expect nothing more from their library (beggars can't be choosers?) and fail to inform staff of inferior products and services. Again, they don't take this same course with books. What makes DVDs so different?
First of all, patrons probably understand the fragile nature of DVDs much better than they do of books. I'm sure they own many DVDs scratched beyond playability. Also, libraries can purchase books with special bindings intended to put up with wear and tear of library use. Library format DVDs (to the best of my knowledge) do not exist. Perhaps the material used to make scratch resistant glasses should be employed to make scratch resistant DVDs. This would make them more expensive, but at $29.99 now, would twice the price for 4 times the life be a bad deal?

The real solution, of course, was murdered by the
Digital Millennium Copyright Act. I don't want to sound all crazy about works of art belonging to the public and all, but libraries have proven to be an exception. Legally, libraries can reproduce DVDs in order to keep the original copy in the "archives" and circulate the duplicate. If this was the case, as soon as the duplicate is damaged, libraries could throw it away and replace it immediately at very little cost. Though this is legal, it is illegal to even own a machine or software able to bypass the copy protecting encryption (even in the most basic and useless forms)that is standard on nearly every DVD produced. It is actually illegal to even attempt to find out how to perform such a bypass.
What I guess I am saying is... I don't know. I hate it when I can't watch a movie I got from the library because the same format that gives superior picture and sound is too fragile for viable everyday use. It's not a matter of treating them better when you check them out (well, it kind of is... but that's another blog entirely). It's a matter of a library buying something they expect to break, with full knowledge that it won't last long, simply to have it. What a waste of money. Want to read another blog? Go back to the start of this one and replace the "DVD"s with "paperback books."


{eitp team member} said...

Hear hear!

You may also be interested in this little exchange abt DRM over at reBang blog (link)...

We've got the technology, the right to make copies, but not the right to use the technology to make copies. It's mad.

Spencer Smith said...

Not only is it mad... it's enough to drive one mad as well!