In a series of articles that will be published over the coming weeks, I’m taking a look into the world of cloud services. Be that Music, TV, Film, eBooks and storage, I’ll look at what services are perhaps better suited to each task, and which to avoid. First I want to look at the idea of Cloud Services, and how by using all these subscription model services, you are in certain circumstances, renting your content rather than owning it.
With an increasing number of services providing instant, on demand access to your favorite TV shows and films, never has it been easier to watch a film or new TV series. It’s a wonderful service that is slowly changing the nature of home media content. However, more often than not, after a few months that film you really enjoyed and want to watch again, is no longer available on that service.
For example, lets say Netflix is showing Demolition Man, you remember how awesome (or not) it was, sit and watch it. Great, on demand at its best. It’s now 1 year later, and you fancy watching it again. You bring up Netflix and its nowhere to be found. You search the genres, the catalogues, but nothing, It’s likely that the rights for Netflix to show it have expired, and for whatever reason didn’t renew it. It may be that LoveFilm picked it up instead, or worse, no one did.
Unless you own the Movie on DVD, Blu-Ray or even VHS, you can no longer watch this on demand. Admittedly you’re paying less a month for the rights to essentially rent millions of films a month for a fraction of the cost, than if you were to buy them all, but there is certainly a flaw in the plan, in that you must still own certain films if you think you will always want to have it to hand.
I’m not saying that this a problem at all, in fact if you do discover a film you dearly love via the Cinema, or an on demand service, its likely you will purchase it anyway. The issue is that this isn’t particularly well advertised, and to a degree I think it should be. There could perhaps be a small piece of text at the bottom of the film synopsis, stating how long that film will be available for on your streaming service of choice. It would certainly be useful to know, and I think a welcome change to the masses that use on demand services.
TV is a difficult beast to quantify. Here in the UK, we pretty much have to pay for a TV license. (Unless you don’t own a TV, but then you get into the realms, of small print and on whether you should be allowed to watch iPlayer etc..) This is the BBC’s main source of income and funding for its programming. If you are a UK resident and own a TV, you have to purchase a TV license by law. If you have a black and white TV then its a smaller amount. On the upside there are NO ad’s at all, save for its own trailers for its own programming.
By paying for the TV license, UK residents have unlimited access to a multitude of channels both on the traditional TV and online via BBC iPlayer, the PlayStation network and Xbox 360. So that’s one monthly (or yearly) payment already of approx £12.12 per month. Now if I want to subscribe to Netflix that’s going to be another £5.99 per month. (NB: Netflix used to be pretty rubbish in the UK due to licensing issues with US made content, however, of late its got far better and is certainly worth revisiting.)
The better streaming service to subscribe to here in the UK and a lot of Europe, is LoveFilm, the Amazon owned company. Due to licensing LoveFilm are the better choice as they have a far larger catalogue of films and TV shows, though they are likely to be TV shows you have already seen, where as Netflix not so much. Fun decision. LoveFilm is £4.99 per month.
So for the best of all worlds, you will need to pay £23.10 per month for your TV License, NetFlix and LoveFilm and that’s excluding any Sky/Cable, phone line or internet packages, you may also want to add. To be fair its pretty good, and unlike films, TV shows are more often than not, just watched the once, and then not thought of again for years until the next re-run. So on demand TV certainly has an advantage over on demand films in my book. Bear in mind your paying to essentially rent the content, not own it, which is what you generally do for TV anyway.
I LOVE the idea of eBooks, yet do not own an e-book reader or, read eBooks on my mobile or tablet device. This is primarily a personal choice as I love the feel of a book in my hands, the smell of print on paper etc… There is something that does bother me about e-books and e-readers, however and that’s the fact that unless you own the file, and have not synced your content via the Amazon/Barnes and Noble or other store, you are again only renting the content, even though you have in fact paid for the content. (Yes there are ways of striping the DRM content but, I’m talking legality here, also the principal of thing.)
A few years back, Amazon removed George Orwell’s 1984 from thousands of people’s Kindles due to a copyright problem, in that a company called MobileReference, who did not own the copyright to the book, started uploading and selling both 1984 & Animal Farm via the Amazon Store. The actual copyright owners of course complained to Amazon, and requested that the books be removed from the store, which is of course completely fair and what Amazon did. However, Amazon went one step to far. Not only did Amazon delete those books from the Amazon Store, but also from people’s Kindles. When users next synced their Kindles to the Amazon store, the two George Orwell books were removed, without any conferring with the Kindles owner. Amazon did send an email out to its customers to explain, and customers that had purchased the book, or books, were refunded what they originally paid.
So basically, if you own an eReader and haven’t put the e-book files on to the device yourself (Amazon do not let you add non DRM e-books on their Kindles by the way), you don’t really own the book, and it could be removed at anytime, whether you want to keep it or not.
It’s also of interest to note, that under American law, under the ‘right of first sale’ people can do what ever they like with the book, sell it, gift it, trade it, it’s entirely down to the owner, not the bookseller. Imagine if you bought a book from Borders/Waterstones/Tesco/Wal-Mart, and then two months later asked you to give it back, as they shouldn’t have sold it to you in the first place. You legally own that book, why should you give it back?
This is what I don’t like about the e-book ecosystem, I don’t want to be told what I can, or cannot read, that is not a choice for booksellers and publishers to make on my behalf.
It’s so wonderfully ironic that it was ‘1984′ that was deleted, as the book describes an authoritarian police state government that controls the flow of information and dissemination of lies, by rounding up and collecting all books, newspapers, and magazines, and burning them in what George Orwell called a memory hole, a huge furnace buried deep in the basements of the Ministry of Truth, which then replaced all the media with new, government friendly lies. I guess its only fitting that this happened to Amazon as another word for Kindle in the Oxford dictionary as a verb is to set (something) o fire. The word is derived from Old Norse as Kindill which means ‘candle’ or ‘torch’.
I’ve re-written this section a few times now, music, its such a huge part of people’s everyday lives, and with how Apple and iTunes have pretty much changed the music industry, and how the record labels now deal with the bulk of their sales around the world. So, in this instance I’m going to skip the history of music, and its move from the power of the record labels and concentrate on the online purchase stuff.
For a long time iTunes really did hold the monopoly in digital music, and it was laced with DRM. Nowadays however, Apple seem to have relaxed their pose on DRM somewhat, as you can now import iTunes libraries to many other media management software.
For example, you can point your Zune, Windows Media Player, Google music or Amazon player to read your iTunes library and it will do, you can even use those programs to put the music on a mobile device, and it’ll still play.
There is one issue however. Bruce Willis a year ago stated that he wanted to leave his entire iTunes music collection (which is apparently quite expansive) to his children. Apple do not currently let you transfer your iTunes library to other users, so do you, or don’t you, actually own the music you have purchased via iTunes, or which ever media platform you have purchased your music from.
To be fair to Apple I am only using them as an example, as they have such a vast customer base. This applies to Google Music, Xbox Music, Amazon Cloud Player, and any other online music database you decide to purchase music from.
I for one, only buy the occasional item from iTunes, or Xbox Music, depending on the exclusivity of the track or album I want to purchase. If it’s released first via one of these services I’ll wait until the physical media comes out, or can purchase the MP3 file from a third party website. I want to own my music, and all the rights to it, to put on whatever device I please to listen to when and however I want.
So yeah, these are my general thoughts on cloud provided entertainment. I love the idea of it, but hate the red tape that goes with it. Its just so… inconvenient.