Cutting the Cloud

Netflix recently announced its crackdown on password sharing. This comes after the price of its service has continually gone up (while the amount of content has gone down). I subscribed to Netflix for years and shared my password with my father. After he passed, I continued to let his widow use our Netflix account. Recently, I paid around twenty dollars a month for Netflix in 4K. With Netflix's announcement that I could continue to share my account for an additional $7.99, I decided to cancel Netflix and explore other options. Almost thirty dollars a month is too high to repeatedly rewatch Trailer Park Boys.

Streaming services were much more affordable in their infancy. I could subscribe to both Netflix and Hulu and not break the twenty-dollar mark. Between the two services, I could usually find something to watch. But now the number of streaming services has grown. Identify any niche and you will find a streaming service that caters to it. Not only have the number of streaming services grown but so has the cost. A girl I used to date showed me how she rotated which services she subscribed to based on what the service added that month. Streaming was much simpler ten years ago.

Is the content on any of these services worth the price? How many services do I need to watch a few shows? I have a BluRay player and many movies and shows on BluRay and DVD. Boutique labels release BluRays for about twenty to thirty dollars. Buying one new movie every month would cost close to what I paid for Netflix but doesn't allow for bingeing if I ever decide to get into that. There was a cheaper alternative.

For no added cost, I could join the local library. OK, there ended up being added cost. My library didn't have a lot of services but the library the next town over (which was technically closer) did. For fifty dollars a year, I could join the library. That was less than three months of Netflix and worth it.

The library's immediate advantages were obvious. I can check out books (ending my regular pilgrimages to Half Price Books), check out audiobooks, and of course, DVDs. I checked out the whole series of I, Claudius, which I otherwise would not have seen.

Other advantages of joining the library were less obvious. My local library uses Overdrive, which allows me to check out books on my Kindle and borrow audiobooks. The latter allowed me to cancel my Audible subscription. We listen to a lot of audiobooks in my family so Overdrive is a great value for that alone.

The most relevant advantage (for this article) to joining the library is Kanopy. I loved the Criterion Channel when I had it but could not justify the cost. Kanopy had many of those movies. Starting to use our Kanopy account led my son to become a Charlie Chaplin fan. Kanopy also adds the Great Courses. We subscribe to Wondrium but when I scrolled through the number of Great Courses titles Kanopy had, I gave up trying to reach the bottom.

Add to that two apps for reading magazines and newspapers and I found I could replace much of my consumption habits with going to the library instead. When I pick my son up from daycare, he loves going to the library so we have been going once a week.

Though invested in the library, we are not "cutting the cloud" completely. I still see value in a few streaming services. The CuriosityStream bundle may provide the best streaming value for the cost. Wondrium has exclusive content beyond the Great Courses and provides downloadable textbooks and a magazine. I may not keep Wondrium but I do enjoy it.

Streaming services become too expensive when there are so many choices. By joining the library, I found a cheaper and more rewarding alternative. I gained access to a large amount of media and got to teach my son about community (though he mentioned he visited this library several times with his school). Streaming still has its place but now I'm more careful about where I put my money.

My faith in the subscription model has waned but that is a subject for a later post.