Our approach to buying music, movies, games and books has changed over the last decade. We don't have to stand out in the rain to be the first in line for the latest game release. Why spend gas money driving to the store to buy the latest Quentin Tarantino thriller when we can immediately stream it on our phones? Digital media has changed everything.

With the emergence of e-readers and music streaming services, many people prefer the hassle-less convenience of digital media. But with recent debates over who actually owns that digital content, some people are debating whether we might see a shift back to physical media's dominance.

Let's discuss the benefits of each.

Benefits of physical media

Although physical media may seem like a less popular option, there are still plenty of reasons why many consumers hold physical purchases close to their hearts. Here are some of the key benefits of physical media.


No one can debate the ownership of a book or movie if you are holding it in your hands. You don't have to worry about whether your preferred streaming service will remove your favorite media when you own the physical copy.


Tangible media is easy to share with friends and family without any additional costs or the headache of explaining to your parents how to log-in to your streaming service. It's as easy as physically handing over the media you are wanting to share.

Uncompressed quality

Physical media can store a large amount of data. However, movies must be compressed to be easily stream-able and lose quality. Physical media preserves the image and sound quality of the original, meaning that you can enjoy the film or show how the director intended.

No internet required:

Those who live in areas with unstable internet connections can benefit from physical media as they can access it without the need for internet. If you are someone with limited data, reading a physical book instead of an e-book can save you a significant amount of data.


Collectors tend to be large advocates for physical media. It can be fun to collect and display horror-genre DVDs, 70s rock-and-roll vinyl or classic fantasy novels. Not only can these be great conversation-starters when a friend visits, but the hunt for that hard-to-find physical media can lead to meeting new people and gaining new experiences.

Case study in favor of physical media : Taylor Swift exclusive vinyl

When Taylor Swift released "1989 (Taylor's Version)" last October, she gave fans the opportunity to purchase an exclusive vinyl with an added bonus. The Tangerine Edition vinyl features a bonus track, "Sweeter Than Fiction (Taylor's Version)," that isn't available on any streaming services. This gave fans the incentive to purchase the physical vinyl, instead of just downloading the music to their phones. Swift also benefited when "1989 (Taylor's Version)" broke the modern-era single week vinyl sales record according to Billboard.

Benefits of digital media

There's no denying the convenience of purchasing something from the comfort of your couch and enjoying it almost immediately. Let's take a look at some of digital media's advantages.


The convenience and accessibility of digital purchases is undeniable. 97% of Americans own a phone, according to ConsumerAffairs. Most new cars no longer have CD players. If you want to listen to music in your car that isn't the radio, you will have to do so digitally. This shift towards digital products also shows in the shift towards digital academic books and the signing of electronic documents instead of physical documents.

Increased choices

If you buy a physical season of Seinfeld, you only get to watch that one season of Seinfeld. But if you subscribe to a streaming service like Netflix, you get to watch every season of Seinfeld, every season of every show the service carries and every movie available on the platform. This allows users to explore what feels like a never-ending number of media options, giving consumers more choices.

Easily updated

Digital media is relatively easy to update. In years past, if there was a glitch in a popular video game, you either lived with it or returned the game. With digital media, developers can roll out updates to fix issues without any action needed on the consumer's end. Updates to games can also include additional purchases to further gameplay, increasing what the consumer gets out of the game and the profit for the game developer.


Physical media can be expensive due to packaging and shipping costs. Digital media requires neither packaging nor shipping, which tends to lower the price for consumers. Since consumers can subscribe to a streaming service, they also feel they get more bang-for-their-buck with the plethora of options.

Case study in favor of digital media: Xbox Game Pass

Think Netflix for video games, Xbox Game Pass is a subscription service that allows Xbox users to download and play video games. Subscribers download — but don't own — the games they play. Games do eventually leave the service, but subscribers get a warning and even have a chance to purchase games leaving the catalog at a reduced price. The Game Pass subscription offers access to hundreds of games and tends to cost less than the price of one physical video game.

So, what happens next?

Whether you prefer physical or digital media, we are likely to continue to see a mix of both for the near future. Each offers advantages and disadvantages and may just come down to what you prefer or intend to do with the media. Casual film fans may benefit more from digital copies of movies. But if you are a diehard Sofia Coppola fan, a Blu-ray copy of "Marie Antoinette" might be your best option.

Either way, this conversation will continue to evolve as preferences shift and technology progresses. What will the digital/physical landscape look like in 10 years?