Movies Are Cheap – My Time is Expensive

…or why I’d rather buy a movie twice than waste time ripping it.
I get lots of questions about movie formats. Several times a week these questions involve ripping commercial DVDs, HD-DVDs, and Blu-ray movies. My response is generally something stock about not teaching people how to pirate things. I can appreciate the whole making a backup copy concept for people who want a second disk in case something breaks, but aside from case law suggesting it’s illegal in the United States, it doesn’t make sense economically to bother. My time has more value than the disks I’m copying so if I need a different format, I’m likely going to buy it.
Set aside the fact that movie studios should be shipping a portable format with every new disk they sell. They don’t yet, although Harry Potter 5 did include portable versions. I’m hopeful more disks continue this trend. Amazon is doing a reasonable job pushing studios that direction with Unbox, which sells you a download compatible with Windows and many portable devices (although not iPods). In many cases, you can get Amazon Unbox titles for free. If Xbox live would give you a Zune-compatible download with every movie purchase, they’d be leading the space too. iTunes movies work on all platforms and include iPod-friendly versions. But the bottom line is that it takes real time or longer to convert a DVD to any other format (especially if you want DVD equivalent quality), which means most people lose their time value of money by ripping.
I don’t know how you value your time, but if I’m tying up my computer for 2 hours to rip and convert a movie, that’s easily $100 down the drain, often considerably more. Assuming the average person in the US makes about $50k per year, or $25 per hour, you’d need to rip $19.99 new disk in about 36 minutes to break even on time value of the average person. Obviously as more DVDs become available at $9.99 and $14.99, that time frame shrinks further. Instead of wasting time ripping, you should simply pay for a download version in the format you need.
I’m also not convinced people should bother pack-ratting all these digital files anyway. I have a shelf full of DVDs that collect dust because they simply don’t get watched. If they were on a hard drive, they’d take up less space, but still wouldn’t get watched. If you really want unlimited access to movies, pay a few bucks to Netflix, let them handle the storage, and order stuff on a regular basis.


  1. Too bad you can’t afford a second computer with all of that valuable time–or does your boss pay you to watch a progress bar?
    “By golly, I get fifty bucks an hour to watch this progress bar at work, I’m not going to do it at home for free!”
    Do you eat all of your food directly from the store container? It must be difficult to stand there and watch the dishwasher go through its cycle if you don’t.

  2. @Jason – I own several computers, but even running three of them at the same time ripping movies my time is better spent doing almost anything else. And I didn’t account for the number of movies that are available on demand for free from most of the cable services.
    People are far too inclined to packrat stuff that they neither need nor can’t get without having “a copy of my own” to horde in a treasure trove buried in dust.

Comments are closed.