used mediaIn the past few years, I have been growing ever more digital in my media habits. First, the paper books started getting replaced. Then I stopped buying TV show boxed sets and started watching them on Netflix. Now I am moving the last of my DVD workouts onto my hard drive for easy iPad streaming, and am starting to actively look for download-only stuff for my new buys.

But it seems I am not the only one moving in this direction, and during my recent March Break Spring Cleaning, I started to realize that this glut of used media is not as easy to get rid of as it used to be. I do keep the ones I have merely converted for streaming; hard drives go bad, and I might need them again someday. But a stack of my workouts didn’t fit in with my current interests anymore; a stack of the Beloved’s movies have moved to Netflix or Blu-Ray; and a tiny handful of treasured favourite paperbacks only just made the Amazon Kindle store. I had a good-sized bag of stuff to get rid of. And…nobody wanted it!

I went online first and listed the niche stuff ‘for trade’ at the Video Fitness forum. No takers. I listed them as free, for the cost of postage. That moved a grand total of four workout collections and netted me about $14 worth of Paypal credits and Amazon gift cards. My final stop was Craigslist and Kijiji. Free, just take it. Nope.

So I started taking them over, in batches, to a store which buys both books and DVD/Blu-Ray. I got $40 on the first day, for about half the stack. I tried to haggle for the rest of them, and they finally said I was free to just leave them there if I wanted to, but they really, really didn’t want them. I got $21 the second day, and left another stack free for the taking. The third day, I got just $14 and was politely asked to only return if I had stuff better than this.

The problem is that stores like them have better sources than little old me these days. They get overstocks straight from the publishers. They just got a stack of kids picture books when a regional publisher just shut a warehouse down and gave them the lot of it. They can do better than my decades-old cast-offs. Most of their customers are either looking for deals on the new stuff, or peddling a box of their own unwanted trash. So where is a de-clutterer like me supposed to send this stuff?

I do think that purveyors of new releases are in good shape. I have no problem whatsoever with buying digital media of any kind. I like that it frees me from the need to do these periodic purges. I can keep it as long as I wish, and it takes up no space in my home. But I think the secondhand market is due for some growing pains. How is it supposed to absorb several million customers who all want to go digital now and are all trying to unload the same decades-old Buffy the Vampire Slayer boxed set and Norton Anthology Fifth Edition?

Image credit: Quinn Dombrowski under a Creative Commons license

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"I’m a journalist, a teacher and an e-book fiend. I work as a French teacher at a K-3 private school. I use drama, music, puppets, props and all manner of tech in my job, and I love it. I enjoy moving between all the classes and having a relationship with each child in the school. Kids are hilarious, and I enjoy watching them grow and learn. My current device of choice for reading is my Amazon Kindle Touch, but I have owned or used devices by Sony, Kobo, Aluratek and others. I also read on my tablet devices using the Kindle app, and I enjoy synching between them, so that I’m always up to date no matter where I am or what I have with me."


  1. That’s a very interesting question.

    I’m still sticking with physical media for movies & tv shows since my DSL connection really isn’t able to handle HD streaming. But I almost exclusively buy those new.

    I’ll look at used CDs if I see them for a buck or two – I can always convert them if I see anything interesting (but then I’m left with another disc that I really have no need for unless my hard drive & backup both go bad.)

    I haven’t looked in a used book store in a few years, and I used to love them.

    I don’t want to think about how limited my options will be the next time I try to thin out my non-digital libraries.

  2. “But I think the secondhand market is due for some growing pains”

    An excess of sellers and a shortage of buyers isn’t going to make the market grow; it will smother the market. This is something that is already being seen in used books as well as a lot of other media.

  3. You can swap DVDs at and paperbacks at They also have a site for swapping CD’s as well.

    Yes, they are swap sites but its better then throwing things in the trash. And, keep in mind that not everything has a digital equivalent yet. So you may find that book or movie or even TV show that you want that a digital copy doesn’t exist yet.

    The sites swap for points and then you can in turn use these points to get DVDs, BluRays or books from other users. I have personally found lots of books and movies not available as digital yet on these sites that I read/watched and then swapped for something else in return.

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