We Need an 'iTunes Match' for Movies and Books

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The ability to rip tracks from music CDs you bought last week or 25 years ago, and turn them into MP3s you can sync to a laptop, tablet, or smartphone is pretty awesome. What would be even cooler, though, is if there was a way to do something similar with the movies and books you own.

If you’re anything like me, you have a stockpile of VHS tapes, standard DVDs, and Blu-Ray discs, and shelf upon shelf of paperback and hard cover books. You shouldn’t have to repurchase stuff you already own to get access to it on the go.

iCloud is heading in the right direction, but too iOS-centric and doesn't include books.
Apple streamlined the process for syncing or uploading music significantly with iTunes Match. iTunes Match provides a simple means of “moving” your existing music content to the cloud by simply scanning what you have and automatically populating the content in the cloud. As great as iTunes Match and iCloud are, though, they’re also Apple-centric.

You can also accomplish similar feats in a more platform-agnostic way using tools like Google Music, or Amazon Cloud Player, or Ubuntu One. But, you have to go through the tedious process of uploading all of your content manually—and for my music collection over my broadband connection it took weeks. Imagine how long it would take to upload a fifty or a hundred HD movie files at 4GB or 5GB each.

Apple is heading in the right direction. It has updated the iCloud service to include movies you buy from iTunes. Movies you purchase from iTunes will be available through iCloud on all of your iOS devices. That is great for new movies you purchase, but doesn’t do anything for the movies you already own, and doesn’t help with your books.

There are ways to rip your own movies into digital formats. However, they’re often somewhat convoluted, and may skirt copyright law a bit. There are new services emerging, though, that may help fill the void.

Wal-Mart recently introduced a service to convert your DVDs and Blu-Ray discs to digital format in the cloud. But, the service costs $2 per DVD, $5 for HD quality, and $2 per Blu-Ray discs. It is certainly cheaper than rebuying all the content, but could still add up quickly if you have a big enough movie collection. The other down side to the Wal-Mart service is that the content can only be accessed using Vudu once it’s uploaded.

So, there are some options for movies, but they’re far from perfect. As far as I know, there are no similar services offered that allow you to somehow gain access to cloud-based digital versions of your physical books. You could scan the entire thing and store it on your tablet or smartphone as a PDF, but it would be such a tedious process that you’d be much better off to spend the money and just buy a new digital version instead.

When traveling on business, it’s nice to have access to an entire library containing all of the music you own. Now, we just need someone to step up and offer a solution that also lets you sync your movies or books to your mobile device or access them from the cloud as well.

If you already own a physical copy of a book, you shouldn't have to re-buy the digital version.
If you already own The Breakfast Club you shouldn’t have to pay $14.99 to buy it again from iTunes just so you have something to watch during your flight. If you already own the paperback edition of my book Essential Computer Security, you shouldn’t have to pay $17.25 to buy the Kindle version just so you can read it on your iPad rather than lugging the book around with you.

It seems like there should be something along the lines of iTunes Match for movies and books as well. Perhaps some software that lets you insert your physical DVDs or Blu-Ray discs into your PC to verify your ownership of the physical disc, then makes the digital equivalent available to you online. For books, maybe you could scan the bar code and ISBN from the cover to prove you have the book, and get access to the e-book version.

Or, when it comes to Apple, or Amazon, or Barnes & Noble and others, they already know what you’ve paid for. Those retailers should be able to review your purchase history over some span of time and just automatically provide you with the digital equivalent.

The service from Walmart for scanning the movies you already own, and the move by Apple to make new movie purchases available to iOS devices are both steps in the right direction. We just need to continue down that path and find ways that apply to both movies and books, and aren’t tied to Vudu, or only functional with iOS devices.

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