Roku Adds Amazon Video-on-Demand Streaming

If I want something enough to own it, I still prefer to have a physical copy. I'm not sold on relying on the cloud for storing everything, nor am I convinced that I'll find a match for my personal interests on a general-interest Web library. That said, while using the Roku Digital Video Player with its new Amazon Video on Demand service, I found some advantages to the experience.

As a science-fiction television aficionado, I discovered plenty of content to devour on Amazon's service. And at $1.99 a pop, it was easy to justify downloading favorite episodes of classic Star Trek (A Piece of the Action!), not to mention catching up on some Battlestar Galactica viewing and downloading random episodes of Stargate Atlantis, Babylon 5, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The X-Files.

But soon I caught myself. Those innocent two-buck purchases, I realized, were quickly adding up. And I already have the DVDs...or, at least, I intend to buy the DVDs or Blu-rays (Battlestar must come out on Blu-ray at some point) for current series. As reasonable as the picture quality of the Amazon downloads was for a quick, one-off, $2 investment on my old CRT television, I concluded that I wouldn't be able to tolerate the images' flaws (artifacting, macro-blocking) in something I'd own and watch on a future 46-inch, LED-backlit HDTV--especially if I were to spend $30 or more for a season's worth of digital episodes.

The main benefit of using the Amazon service on the Roku device is that I could have instant gratification: I could enjoy the one specific episode I wanted, on my TV, without having to dig around for the DVD, take the particular disc with that episode out of the box, and so on. The main drawback: Aside from the mounting costs and duplication issues, I realized that if I have too much content in my Amazon Video Library, the impulsive nature of accessing said content goes away. The line between "impulse" and "chore" is a fine one--and without better organization and from-the-couch searching, the Roku box's appeal diminishes, at least for movie ownership (rentals are a whole other concept).

Another problem is that, no matter how much I tried to search, I couldn't find some of my favorite material to watch (and rewatch): gymnastics competitions. For that, I still have to revert to my DVR and my DVD collection. The cloud approach works only for mass-market content; as long as there's a cost to content providers and digital storefronts to supply and host videos and other media, accommodating niche interests will remain a weakness of the cloud concept.