Eliminating Physical Media Sprawl of CDs, DVDs, Books

    by Mark Glaser
    September 28, 2006

    i-55e7bb00080986d6617865d1031cdf52-physical media sprawl.jpg
    Lately, I have declared my own personal war on clutter in my life. That means all the paper littering my home office had to go. Those outdated hats from Burning Mans past also were out, as were old loose photos of places I don’t remember. But for whatever reason, in each clean sweep I do of my stuff, I can never part with my collections of books, CDs, VHS and DVD movies (not to mention vinyl records and audiocassettes).

    What is wrong with me? I blame it all on technology. The computer revolution was supposed to spark the paperless office, right? Wrong. The e-book revolution was supposed to replace all printed books, right? Wrong. The digital music and movie revolution was supposed to replace all CDs and DVDs, right? Wrong. Instead, having access to so much more music and movies online just makes us want to burn, baby, burn more media to discs.

    A friend of mine who has quite a large collection of bootleg movies and DVDs from the Net now has a whole shelf in his apartment dedicated to movies he’s burned to DVD. He’s created such authentic-looking artwork and packaging for them that they would be the envy of the pirated movie hawkers in the Mission district of San Francisco.


    What’s wrong with him? After all these years of technological innovation, we still have a desire to touch and feel our media, to show off our stuff to friends. But the result is the ugly mess of “physical media sprawl,” which for me includes a bursting-at-its-seams CD shelf in my home office that is about seven feet high and poses an imminent danger in case of earthquake.

    The solution is in technology as well. My various hard drives could hold all the music that I own in the physical media sprawl. But how do I organize all that and how do I make sure I don’t lose it all in a tech meltdown? What happens to all the cover art for CDs and DVDs? And with books, obviously I could trade many of them in at a used book store or give them to friends. Rather than purchase new ones, I could try audiobooks downloaded to my iPod.

    My goal is to eliminate just half of my physical media sprawl, which currently stands at the following estimate of crap:

    • 1200 music CDs.
    • 400 books.
    • 20 to 30 DVDs.
    • 100 videotapes.

    Here’s where the open source reporting comes in. I’d like to hear your own stories of eliminating physical media sprawl. Did you rip your CDs and sell them? Did you scan the artwork? How far along are you in eliminating physical media sprawl, and what tips can you share with me and others to help us remove the media clutter in our lives?

    Or perhaps you are a media sprawl developer, a proponent of the old and the dusty, someone who likes to touch and feel your media. Tell me why you stand by your media and pay rent for the media that is your constant yet quiet roommates. I will return to the subject with your thoughts and stories, if enough people join in the fun. And perhaps in the not-so-distant future, I can declare victory over the physical media sprawl in my life.

    [Photo of physical media sprawl by Frederik Vandaele.]

    Tagged: books cd dvd entertainment
    • I’m the queen of de-cluttering, but there are some LPs I can’t bare to part with. Not so much for the music, because as you say, that can all be put on a drive somewhere, but rather for the covers. So I pull one out one a week and put it on display. This week was an eighties yum yum, The Waterboys’ A Pagan Place. Then of course I had to play it. Then I pulled out another Waterboys LP, and before you could say “Aztec Camera,” my dining room, where my turntable is, looked like a college radio station – from the 80’s of course. Our pasts will never fit neatly into any one social media device.

    • When I got my iPod I threw out all the cases for my CDs and put the discs in one of those folders you can get at Target or Best Buy. That was a significant chunk of real estate opened up. I still haven’t found a solution for my DVDs yet but am working on it.

    • My Music problem:
      I’m satisfied with my mp3s on my PCs. but what f i wanted 2 play a song on my car or @ a party? i’ll defenitly need 2 burn it on a CD. Then i’ll come out with Collection i, Collection ii, etc… & the clutter began :(

      My DvDs problem:
      These r just 2 big 2 get rid of digitally! specially with the upcoming BlueRay discs & the other 1. I mean f u only have 50 DVDs thats like 50x4gb = 200GB hardisc space!! thats only movies without putting n mind sitcoms’ DVDs.

      The only solution, IMHO, is start obtaining hardics n TeraBytes… & i’m not talking 5 or 10 tb but more like 60 – 200 tb n 1 media center where u can smartly archive all ur media files & wirelessly network’em n ur house. However, the car-music dilemma persists.

      Intersting topic. I believe whoever come-up with a solution 2 this problem will $$$ :)

      peace out.

    • I recently moved my home office and while boxing the ubiqutious buisness books that I’ve collected over the years, I wondered why … why am I keeping these. I rarely actually refer to them. Are they for display? Would I miss them if I gave them away? Alas, no decision yet. They still sit boxed in the new office … I guess I’m not missing them too much.

    • My personal solution was to invest in a network attached storage (NAS) device. I got one from Infrant that I love – it has a RAID-5 array of hard drives inside meaning that if a drive fails, I can swap in a new one and I haven’t lost any data. That in conjunction with my Squeezebox (www.slimdevices.com) has meant that I now have a place to store all my CDs in lossless digital format (FLAC) and stream them to my stereo via the Squeezebox. I still have piles of CDs sitting around but that’s only because importing them all is a slow and manual process. But when it’s done I’ll have my entire music library in a tiny little silver box.

    • Fantastic piece. Perhaps the one factor not considered is the fear factor – the fear that digital storage can be lost, tampered with, deleted by a careless key stroke. This is a generational thing I’m sure; but for me with my filing cabinets full of stuff from years gone by, it remains very real.

  • Who We Are

    MediaShift is the premier destination for insight and analysis at the intersection of media and technology. The MediaShift network includes MediaShift, EducationShift, MetricShift and Idea Lab, as well as workshops and weekend hackathons, email newsletters, a weekly podcast and a series of DigitalEd online trainings.

    About MediaShift »
    Contact us »
    Sponsor MediaShift »
    MediaShift Newsletters »

    Follow us on Social Media