Amazon Unbox, or: The Price of Immediate Gratification

You’ve probably heard that Amazon has gone live with it’s movie download service — Amazon Unbox. In the interests of movie-loving consumers everywhere I decided to visit the site for 30 seconds, role-playing as a prospective customer to this new technology, to report my first impressions.

Here’s how it went:

0-5 seconds: The Unbox page loads.

6-10 seconds: Oh, ok, it’s the same old stuff. Hey, there’s a list of what other people are buying. What are the tastes of the early adopters? Lots of TV shows, Office Space, The Family Stone, Walk the Line…

11-15 seconds: Wow these seem overpriced to me: The Matrix via Unbox digital download is $9.88, while the DVD from Amazon is… the same price.

16-20 seconds: Oh hey, look: I can get The Matrix on DVD from one of Amazon’s Marketplace Sellers, for $1.98. That seems reasonable for a mass-produced piece of Hollywood entertainment that’s seven years old. Plus, if I buy this DVD I would have a permanent hard copy that can be played on a DVD player, unlike what the Unbox regulations allow.

And it’s at that point that I stopped looking.


Unbox is clearly aimed at people wanting immediate gratification. I can’t WAIT two-to-five days for The Matrix to arrive in the mail — I need it now! But I think you always pay extra for immediate gratification — sometimes in cash, sometimes otherwise.

I would, however, consider using Unbox for movies that were otherwise not available on DVD. Something tells me that this might take a while to materialize, but Amazon says its in the works.

One final note: The Unbox page for The Matrix says those with DSL might need about 68 minutes to download. (Cable modem speeds are MUCH faster.) If you have DSL, it will take you longer to download this movie than it would to drive to your local video store. Then again, that would require that you interact with human beings. You make the call.

UPDATE: Beyond the issues outlined above, there are apparently some pretty insidious things buried in the agreement Amazon asks (read: demands) of its customers. Read this fancifully titled post from BoingBoing for more.

2 Responses to “Amazon Unbox, or: The Price of Immediate Gratification”

  1. » Instant Gratification Says:

    […] A while back, I noted some intriguing issues with a new movie download service. Self-Reliant Filmmaking’s Paul Harrill reports on downloading movies from […]

  2. Bob Alexander Says:

    Hi Paul … I think that you’re right about DVD download for products that are otherwise available in multiple other channels and lower prices. This is a case of digital fever trying to drive some kind of business. Everybody loves movies, right? Let’s do something so we can download ’em …

    But it’s not like that. At least we at IndiePix don’t think so. Checkout our download service at our site. These are independently produced films not really available elsewhere. Try, for example, Love Math from one of the festivals we work with. It’s an entertaining short film for $4.25 — and the festival and filmmaker (together) take home from 60 to 70 percent of that.
    So your purchase of this independently produced film, which you cannot find anywhere else brings you some enjoyment — on a DVD which is a full quality playback environment, not dumbed down for a portable screen — and supports the filmmaker!
    One filmmaker we are working with is supporting his title with blog advertising that reaches almost 1 million people a day. His view is that this gives the indie filmmaker direct access to his audience — unfiltered through studios, retailers and others.
    We’re very happy to be part of this overall effort and very proud to be able to offer this capability to windows and mac users alike!