Rich Warren | Libraries may be the best entertainment deal | Science and Technology

Internet streaming has finally surpassed cable TV. But don’t cry for the cable companies, because in most places, they also connect you to the internet. In fact, that’s why many people still rely on cable TV for entertainment, as cable companies bundle a package that includes internet access. Recent reports show that 67% of respondents watch Internet streaming entertainment, while 61% say they do so through a cable subscription.

While streaming subscriptions tend to be expensive, they’re still more valuable than cable subscriptions. You only pay for what you want to see, and you can subscribe on a monthly basis instead of locking in annual or multi-year deals.

Watching at your convenience (technically called video-on-demand) far exceeds the fixed airtime of cable TV. With streaming, you can always watch shows and movies from scratch, no matter when you choose to watch.

I can’t afford to sample every streaming service, but my current favorite is Apple TV+. Even though we subscribe to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, we mostly watch Apple. It offers a ton of high-quality, well-produced shows for $4.99 a month, making it one of the cheapest streaming services around. Check out “Five Days of Remembrance” and “The Morning Show.” Apple offers a one-week free trial, and purchases of Apple products usually come with a three-month free subscription. When I signed up for T-Mobile cellular service, it came with a free one-year subscription. Apple, a company known for its elegant, easy-to-use software, uses one of the most unwieldy and user-unfriendly online players, at least when watching it on a PC.

If you still have a DVD player, public libraries will give you the best deals on home entertainment. With a library card, you can choose from hundreds of movies and TV shows for free and watch at your convenience. This brings us to this reader’s question:

“I have a 2015 Toshiba DVD/cassette player. I got some newer release DVDs from the Urbana library, and sometimes I get a “disk incorrect” message and can’t play the DVD. The last one is “Liquorice Pizza” – I was probably the second or third person to get it. Didn’t work, so I checked two more “L Pizzas” and they didn’t work. (I own three copies at the same time – I doubt they’ll be happy when I give up. I’ll look at streaming.) Any thoughts?”

Many possibilities may explain your problem. DVDs use much smaller pits that are closer together on the disc than CDs. Therefore, there is a strict tolerance for tracking DVDs. If anything goes wrong, there is little room for error. Also, if the library now has Blu-ray discs, they won’t play on traditional DVD players, although standard DVDs will play on Blu-ray players. Again, Blu-ray pushes disc density to tighter tolerances, so any errors or disc defects can cause problems. Most of the current DVD players are cheap in construction, and they can fail unexpectedly at breakneck speeds. The 2015 players are ancient in terms of player years.

Another problem could be the copy protection used on the disc. While most players include an up-to-date copy protection key, it is always possible that a particular disc uses a form of copy protection that is not associated with the player.

Did the disc you tried play on the library’s player? Have you discussed this with the library’s A/V specialist?

Usually when the player starts failing, it starts rejecting all discs. Maybe you should take “Licorice Pizza” to your local video store and see if it’s playing on the store’s player. If it’s playable, it’s time to buy a new player. You can buy a decent Sony Blu-ray player for about $80 that includes internet streaming capabilities. That’s only about $40 more than a Roku stick or Amazon Fire stick for internet streaming. However, libraries offer the best entertainment deals.

Rich Warren lives in the Champaign area and is a longtime consumer electronics critic. Email him at

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