Opinion: The Importance of Physical Media

The author, Dallas senior Juan G. Rodriguez, sits by his bookshelf reading one of his graphic novels: “Moon Knight – Black, White And Blood.” Rodriguez values physical media because it allows him to enjoy the work without the worry of losing access to it (Photo by Juan G. Rodriguez).

As heavy as my comics collection may be getting, I don’t mind carrying it with me everywhere I go; roughly somewhere north of 200 issues, it’s still growing. My collection’s not as big as other individuals’ collections; still, I take pride in it. 

I like having a wide variety of reading material readily available to me. 

Yes, I am aware that there are phone apps I could use that would allow me to read issues beyond those currently in my collection. Services like Marvel Unlimited and DC Universe Infinite make it so that I would have access to the “big two” comics companies’ catalog of characters and series. I’d no longer have to go out and buy physical copies of the most recent Moon Knight or Wonder Woman series.

Personally though, I’d rather own physical copies of the latest issues instead of relying on a digital service granting me access. The same can be said for films, television, video games and music – because media should always be accessible for the general consumption and enjoyment of the general public.

The stories that mean something to us – the audience – deserve to be accessed and enjoyed whenever the urge strikes us. 

The media we “own” digitally is not ours; rather, we’ve paid for access to the original content. We instead have a license to consume a film, show, videogame, song or book; we are subject to the terms and conditions put before us by the company that we “bought” the product from.

This means the digital copy of “Blue Beetle” that I have on my Vudu account is not mine, but the Blu-ray disc I physically own is. Though I have legal access to the former, Vudu and its parent company Fandango have the power to revoke my digital access to “Blue Beetle” any time they want. If they deem me a violator of their terms of service, or they lose the right to distribute and host the film on the platform, then I lose access to the product I “bought.” 

In the digital age, we own nothing. 

Or rather, we own the ticket that lets us into the venue, and that’s it. If the venue decides to either stop showing the project we wanted to see or decides our ticket is invalid, then I guess it sucks to be us.

People have already lost access to films like “28 Days Later,” given that the discs are out-of-print and no streaming service has the film currently available on their platforms. There are hopes that, given recent news of a Sony-financed sequel, there will be reissued copies of the original on the market in the near future. It would make sense; doing so would generate attention for the sequel. 

We shouldn’t have to hope for corporate mercy though in order to regain access to a beloved story. Films like “Blue Beetle” and “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” have had an impact on my personal brain chemistry that I’m still working to understand. I can only imagine the impact stories like these have had on others.

Stories leave a mark on a person, and that mark itches randomly and often. The story asks that you scratch the itch away by re-experiencing the piece of media once more. When those itches come around, you want to have your media within arm’s reach, not kept behind any sort of obstacle that needs to be outwitted or brute-forced. 

I don’t want to have to pay for an upgrade to our subscription because different people in different households are using the same account. I don’t want to give my money to Amazon every time I want to read a book on their Kindle service. I don’t want to have to search online for a rare track of a song exclusive to a particular album released in a specific country and then burn it onto a CD to listen to while I drive home from work – media should be physical and easily accessible.

Sometimes, all I want is to put a movie on and lie in bed; to read something on a long drive from city to city; to listen to music while at home with my friends.

Is it any surprise, then, that I always carry at least a few comic issues in my backpack? Whether my own or the ones I was lent, being able to engage with media wherever I go and on my own terms is absolutely crucial to my sanity.

I need to remind myself that the stories I love are still a thing I can own; something I can physically hold and preserve, not only for myself, but for my friends, family and loved ones.

I need to be able to share “Blue Beetle” with my sibling and friends here on campus. I need to be able to share my comics with Associate English Professor Nels Christensen. Stories are meant to be shared, not hoarded and spread selectively to those who can pay the price of admission..

Stories are meant to be enjoyed. Owning physical versions of media enables me to better share my favorite stories with my favorite people. Simultaneously, I’m able to then lend them to my loved ones. Like me, they deserve to enjoy and cherish those stories on their own terms.

I know the risk that comes with physical media; there’s no guarantee that my discs won’t make their way back to me with scratches; that my books won’t return with the pages torn and the spines worn. As long as the damage wasn’t intentional though, I don’t mind. It just means that someone else fell in love with that story in a similar capacity that I did. 

Objects come and go, easily replaceable, but I won’t be able to replicate the fondness my friends felt that caused them to take the story everywhere they go as it became a presence in their everyday existence, a fixture that they have to learn to live with.

I see the effects of that omnipresence every time I see their eyes brighten at the mention of the story; it’s a sight to behold, one I’m thankful to be responsible for. 

So I’ll continue to build my comics collection – Half-Price Books’ comics section has been my best friend in that endeavor. At every location I’ve visited back home, single issues have frequently been half-off from their original price; issues priced at $3.99 suddenly drop to $1.99. By the time I’m done and I’ve grabbed every issue I could fit in my hands, I return home with a mountain of back issues to read through. Once I’ve sat down and finished them, I’ll realize I have to share them with my people the next time we spend time together.

After all, what good is a mountain of treasure if there’s no one to enjoy the wealth with?

About Juan G. Rodriguez 43 Articles
Juan G. Rodriguez is a senior sharing his time between Dallas and East Texas. He is majoring in English and minoring in Political Science. As an individual with two pencil leads in his left knee, writing seems to be the only career that Juan is capable of. Contact Juan via jgr13@albion.edu.

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