A few years back I joined the Stephen King Library, which is essnetially a book club (it is in fact owned by Book of the Month Club, Inc.). Every six weeks or so they would send you a hardcover Stephen King book. The book is designed to look like the original issue but they were usually obviously newer printings. A few books were even exclusive to the club, like the hardcover version of the Storm of the Centrury screenplay, or the misellaneous compilation Secret Windows. Between the SKL and Half-Price books I have a pretty complete collection of Stephen King’s work. Maybe one of these days I’ll even read them all.

Problem for the SKL right now though is – he’s not writing that much anymore. He “retired” a while back but he has like two books coming out this year so doesn’t look like the retirement stuck. Still over the last year or so the output of Mr. King has been pretty sparse. The SKL sent me a “Stephen King Desk Calendar”, which I immediately sent back. No thanks, I don’t even really use my digital calendars properly as it is.

Then a few weeks back they sent me another book – ‘Salem’s Lot: Illustrated Edition. I was tempted to send it back, too, but I got to looking at it. It’s the same old book but with some additions. First, it has portions of the book which were cut out initially, as extra chapters in the back. And the book is “illustrated” with creepy photos. And there’s also some additional side stories, written recently I presume. And the book is a lot thicker as a result. So on my bigass shelf of Stephen King books I constructed as part of my new redone home office, the last book on the shelf is this latest book.

But then a funny thing hit me – the cut out chapters? Those are deleted scenes. The extra side stories? Those are bonus materials. The illustrations? Those are concept art. The attractive packaging? That’s a menu.

The publishing industry has DVD Envy.

Can’t say I blame them – DVD’s sell truckloads. DVD of movies that failed in the box office sell truckloads. Music doesn’t sell, piracy hurts software, and the publishing industry has never really seen the glory it used to have, but DVD’s sell truckloads. Partially because they’re new but also partially because they’ve mastered value added content to the point where people who are otherwise stingy with their entertainment dollars will buy them.

So it makes sense that when you want to make some more money off of an old book you come out with a “special edition” of it that does more than put a leather cover on it.

In 2004 a game called Painkiller was released. A fairly standard FPS in the vein of Serious Sam, it gained a cult-like following without ever completely gaining mainstream popularity. It also spawned a mission pack. It did a couple of things really well and everything else just decently well.

A few months back the publisher/developer released what would for any other game be the “Gold” edition (a single SKU with both the original game and the expansion pack) but for fun they called it Painkiller Black. It included both the original game and the expansion pack on a single DVD. It also had the editing tools, a movie on making the game, concept art, a Penny Arcade poster, developer interviews, a music video, and CPL enhancements. All for $30 and in packaging that looked so good, I decided I had to have it (my Father-In-Law picked it up for me off my wishlist). Another game F.E.A.R., went a similar route and even has developer (director) commentary as an option. And of course Quake 4 had movies, extras, and even the original Quake II game plus expansions as extras in its DVD version.

So the game industry also has DVD Envy, but they can do one better – they can actually put the games not only on actual DVD’s but also in actual DVD cases. Of course in many instances they reluctant to put the games acutually on actual DVD’s but they are many times putting them in DVD cases – the new case a lot of them are using is actually thicker than a normal DVD case and can hold up to seven CD’s on a spindle.

The music industry is the worst however – they not only have DVD Envy and are even going to the lengths of including free DVD’s with music CD’s, but no one even cares really. Go to the music section of Target, or the music store in the mall. Most new releases are now in the special “dual jewel” cases with a free DVD enclosed. Even for really popular albums, when is the last time you ever heard of anyone mentioning the content of one of these DVD’s? This is both because they tend to be throwaway fluff, but also because no one’s buying them. The last one worth owning was included in the Nirvana boxed set, and even it was only worth watching once. So they’re driving up the cost of making the physical product that no one wants anymore.

Of course now everyone is predicting the end of DVD’s. I personally don’t see that happening. People point to the music industry and say that that’s a perfect example of the obsolescense of physical media. No, it’s because music is really easy to pirate, so people do it. Back when Napster 1.0 was hot I knew people who wouldn’t even steal a mint out of the candy bin at the grocery store with tons of music on their hard drives – I don’t think they even realized what was going on, they just thought it was some magical program where you typed in the name of a song and it started playing – something radio lacks. No, I think DVD will be around a while. HD-DVD or Blu-Ray will help supplant it, but you’ll re-buy Star Wars on whichever format wins, you won’t re-buy your DVD’s of TV shows since they won’t see improvements anyway.

People have too much of an attachment to physical items. You keep books on a shelf both to use and to display, and you do the same with DVD’s. The eBook didn’t replace DVD’s and neither will broadband. You don’t shove DVD’s into a binder and keep them in your car (unless you have a small apartment) but you do do that with music. In a way DVD’s can be said to have “Book Envy” but that’s another post.