Why Is Blu-ray Writable Still So Expensive?

I really like to back up data to optical media, and as the volume of data I back up continues to increase, I would love to back up to 25gb Blu-ray discs rather than 4.2gb DVD discs. But Blu-ray media is still far more expensive than DVD media and the obvious question is “why?”

The Blu-ray Dimensions blog offers an answer which is basically — relax, DVD writable media was even more expensive at a similar point in its history.

The technology uses a different type of laser (that’s how optical discs are read). With all that it does not compare to when a DVD recorder drive was $13,000.  Yes those days (years) really did exist.  This is not where we break out into a story about walking to school in bare feet in the snow but it really is a matter of perspective.  Recordable Blu-ray is not as inexpensive as recordable DVD because DVD is a mature market.  Demand has leveled off  and despite the crazy forecasts from some manufacturing sectors, the same ones who dump product on the market because they are always wrong, prices have drifted down.

One problem with this analysis, however, is that Blu-ray does not seem to be approaching anywhere near the adoption cycle that DVD experienced. Sales of Blu-ray software and hardware have significantly trailed sales of DVD movies at similar points in the respective technologies’ histories. According to Wikipedia,

According to Adams Media Research, high-definition software sales were slower in the first two years than DVD software sales. 16.3 million DVD software units were sold in the first two years (1997-1998) compared to 8.3 million high-definition software units (2006-2007). One reason given for this difference was the smaller marketplace (26.5 million HDTVs in 2007 compared to 100 million SDTVs in 1998).

That slow adoption could make it much tougher for Blu-ray writable media prices to come down to DVD levels on a per-gigabyte basis.

DVD+-R Life Expectancy

David Pogue apparently had some problems recovering data from some DVDs he burned a few years ago and is all up in arms at the apparently short life span of DVD+Rs and DVD-Rs,

Jeez Louise. A conference organizer asked if I could put together a DVD loop of my funniest Web videos, to play in the registration area while attendees stand in line. No problem, I thought: I’ve got all of the original iMovie projects backed up on DVD, in clear cases, neatly arrayed in a drawer next to my desk. (My hard drive wasn’t big enough to hold those 50 videos a year.)

Guess what? On the Mac I use for video editing, most of the DVD’s were unreadable. They’re less than four years old!

Tried them on another machine. About half of them were readable.

Tried them on a MacBook that I’d been sent to review. Incredibly, mercifully, they all came through fine. I was able to rescue all those original iMovie projects and copy them onto new, bigger, cheaper hard drives.

Pogue concludes from this that burnable DVDs are excessively fragile, but based on what he describes it sounds like either a) the problem was with the DVD burner(s) or b) he’s not storing them properly.

Let me provide a different perspective. In my basement I have about 8,000 DVDs burned over the last 5-6 years. For media, I’ve always picked up whatever was on sale at Best Buy or Office Depot. I file the DVDs into soft cases designed to hold 100 CDs/DVDs, put those cases in large plastic bins, and then file the bins on some shelves in the basement I bought for just that purpose.

After reading Pogue’s piece I grabbed a couple dozen DVDs at random from across projects and times and copied the contents back to a hard drive on PC I borrowed. I didn’t have a single problem copying data from any of the DVDs.

Which is not to say I trust DVD as the only or even primary solution for long term backup. In fact, the issue that is quickly approaching with DVD burning is that the cost of magnetic media is quickly falling to the point where it will soon be cheaper to store data on a hard drive than on a DVD.

Today, Amazon.Com will sell you a 1.5 terabyte hard drive for $130 or less than 9 cents per gigabyte. At that price, optical media is close to not being cost effective when you factor in the inconvenience of burning, storing and managing all of those DVDs.

USA Network’s Swamp Thing on DVD

The Swamp Thing series that ran on USA Networks from 1990-1993 has finally been released on DVD. Note that even though the title is “Swamp Thing: The Series”, this is actually only the first two seasons. I was always a fan of the show, but then again I regularly re-watch Lidsville, so YMMV.

Jason of Star Command On Its Way to DVD

TVShowsOnDVD.Com has a copy of a press release announcing the May 8th release of Jason of Star Command on DVD.

Jason of Star Command was a live-action, Saturday morning cartoon that debuted in 1978 on CBS. It featured, among others, James Doohan of Star Trek fame. The first season mimicked the old movie serials, with each episode ending in a cliffhanger that formed a complete story over the course of the entire season.

‘The Twilight Zone’ DVD Idiocy

After mentioning the Twilight Zone, I decided to check and see if the series was available on DVD yet. It is, but the way in which it is being released on DVD is downright bizarre. Like a lot of TV series issued on DVD, there are several DVDs that collect 3 or 4 episodes. What is bizarre is that the episodes in the Twilight Zone DVDs aren’t sequential.

So, for example, Twilight Zone Vol.15 includes Episodes 6, 39, 75 and 124.

I cannot for the life of me think of a reason not to put the episodes in sequential order.