In recent years, physical media has become more and more obsolete. Streaming services now reign supreme, and very few people still want to invest their time and money into physical movies, video games, books, and music. While digital media can be more convenient, there are still many aspects that make physical media more important than ever, despite many claiming that physical media is dead.

Better Quality

While streaming quality certainly isn’t bad, it doesn’t provide nearly as much visual quality. While streaming services do now provide 4k streaming, it still cannot reach the quality of a 4k or blu-ray disc. Since it is streamed, data is sent to your TV. This data is known as a bitrate. The amount of bitrates sent to the TV each second varies, as the data must be compressed so that it can be passed over your WiFi. While streaming may be a lot more convenient, visual clarity is something I value when watching a film, so I always watch a disc if possible. Movies like Interstellar deserve to be watched on a 4k disc. There’s also the factor of audio quality; while several streaming services do support Dolby Atmos, it’s still compressed a little bit, as it has to be streamed. You will always have much better audio quality with a disc; the majority of discs released in recent years contain either Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio Soundtrack, which will give you a much better experience.

You actually own it

On streaming services, most content is only available for a limited amount of time. Unless it’s a platform original, most shows and movies will inevitably leave it at some point. Sometimes, streaming services even get rid of their own original content (looking at you, Arrested Development). If you own a disc, you don’t have to worry about that. Sure, Whiplash might be streaming on HBO Max right now, but someday, it won’t be. When I first watched that movie in August, I had to rent it, because it wasn’t streaming anywhere. Now, I can watch Whiplash whenever I want.

One of my least favorite things when it comes to entertainment is having to rent things. I have to pay $3.99 to watch a movie when I could probably find a blu-ray for the same price? Amazon Prime and Vudu rentals cost far too much, and you only have access to it for two days after you begin watching it. You’re also giving money to Amazon, which probably isn’t a good thing.

There’s also the option of buying movies digitally, which you should avoid at all costs. You don’t actually own that movie- you’re buying a license to keep a digital file of it on your account. Unlikely as it is, imagine something like iTunes shutting down- what would happen to everything you had bought on there? Plus, buying something on a digital service can cost a lot of money. On Vudu, you can buy Inception for $9.99. If you really wanted to watch Inception, you can go to any thrift store and probably find multiple copies for $2 each. And, as far as digital movie purchases go, that’s pretty cheap. I often see them being advertised for $15 or even $20. If you really wanted a digital collection, there’s still a way to do both. Most movies nowadays come with a digital code that you can use on something like Movies Anywhere or Vudu. This really is the best option; you get both formats for one price.

What do you do when your internet goes out?

Imagine this: you’re sitting on your couch on a Friday night, watching Breaking Bad on Netflix. All of a sudden, it stops, and Netflix tells you that it can’t find a connection. What do you do now? You were right in the middle of Crawl Space, and you need to see how it ends. Well, you go into the other room and grab your Breaking Bad complete blu-ray set barrel and continue watching one of the greatest episodes of television ever created. The unlikely hypothetical scenario of the internet going out and being left with nothing to watch bothers me far more than it should, so this just adds to my desire to own a vast library. Many say that you could just watch it on your phone, or connect your TV to your hotspot, but who really wants to do that? Why watch a movie on a small screen when there’s a TV right here? Plus, using a hotspot to watch Netflix on your TV will likely lead to a laggy and unstable connection, making shows stutter, and giving them less visual clarity than they already had. All of this could be avoided if you owned that blu-ray set of Breaking Bad.

It supports the artists

While streaming a director’s movie can boost numbers and show a streaming company that people have interest in that director’s work, they use business models notorious for screwing over artists who use their services. Buying a physical copy of a game, movie, album, or book will send a large portion of the cost directly to the artist, funding their future projects. If you truly love an artist’s work and want to support them further, buying a physical copy of that artwork is the ideal way to support them. Something like an author’s book sales or a band/singer’s album sales are often a large portion of their income, and buying an actual copy of their work supports them a lot more than listening to an audiobook or using Spotify.

How do I start?

Maybe my passion for physical media has convinced you. Maybe you’ve decided that preserving art is important, and curating your own library is the best way to do it. So, how do you start? Well, beginning a collection has become more difficult in recent years. Many large retailers carry a very small amount of movies and music, if any. You’re likely going to have to resort to two alternative methods: small entertainment stores dedicated to physical media, or eBay. My store of choice is Disc Replay- they have a large movie and video game selection, and even have board games, comics, vinyls, and other collectibles. Finding a store like this can be somewhat difficult if you live in an area similar to mine, but trust me, there’s probably at least one within driving distance. And, of course, there’s sites like eBay and Mercari. I don’t like shopping on these sites, but sometimes, it’s the only option. If you really want something specific, and your local store doesn’t have it in stock, it’s a fine last resort.

You also need to find a player. At this point, a blu-ray player can be found for fairly cheap. But, if you’re looking to collect 4k discs, a player will still cost you. I would recommend finding a gaming console. Of course, if you’re not into games, a player is still a good option, but game consoles make it a lot easier; they’re able to play two different forms of media. Plus, most come with the option to download streaming services, if you’re not able to find a disc anywhere. I use a Playstation 5 for all of my gaming and watching needs, and it works fantastically. It is obviously able to play games at a very smooth and consistent frame rate, but can also play any form of movie. You can watch your DVDs, blu-rays, and 4k blu-rays on the Ps5, and they all look great. I’ve even noticed that it upscales the quality of DVDs and blu-rays, and they look much nicer. The Xbox Series X also plays all movie formats. While game consoles are a lot more expensive than just a player, I would recommend picking one up. I can’t speak for the Series X, but the Ps5 plays 4k discs just as well as a 4k player.

So, now that you’ve decided to start collecting, have found a store, and have a way to play them, what should you buy first? Well, it depends. I would start with just buying your favorites. My film collection was built around 10-15 films that I already owned, containing some of my all-time favorites. Since then, I’ve built upon it quite a bit, buying new movies that I’ve loved, and sometimes blind buying films that I’ve ended up really enjoying. I would use this strategy with any collection; obtain your favorites first, and then build around it. Buy the albums of your favorite artists, your favorite movies, video games you already know you love, and books that you have enjoyed. If you don’t know what to buy next, do some research. Find out what some of the most loved and well-known works in the field are, and try them out. There are plenty of places online where you can ask for recommendations, and receive them from people who are dying to tell you about media you love (including me- leave a comment and I’ll recommend several things).

Many people claim that physical media is useless in modern day, and streaming/digital services are the only viable methods. I believe that I have more than proven why physical media is still a worthwhile investment, and is actually more important than ever. Many companies are trying to move away from discs, as it costs a lot more to produce than just streaming it to the viewer, and this must be stopped. If you still disagree with me, that’s fine. Just don’t complain when you can’t watch Breaking Bad on your TV because the internet is out.