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What to do with those old CDs and DVDs

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It's a decidedly modern dilemma: With music and movies becoming increasingly available online and on-demand — that jumble of iTunes and Hulus and Netflix and clouds — what do you do with those stacks of old CDs and DVDs cluttering up your shelves?

The dream, as always, is to be able to access all of your movies and music without the shelves of shiny discs and plastic cases. The issue has been percolating for a decade or so now with music, and there are roughly one million methods for ripping your old CDs to digital to keep the music you already have. But that takes time, and you still have the old disc and jewel case to try to sell, recycle or trash.

The good news is that a marketplace is emerging to do it all for you in a green and potentially profitable manner. The Wisconsin-based start-up Murfie has an intriguing system. You mail in your used CDs and cases — Murfie provides the shipping kit — and the company converts the music into digital format for later downloading in the digital format of your choice.

If you don't want the music anymore (certain 1980s heavy metal records come to mind), you can sell the albums to other Murfie users, essentially transferring ownership of the digital files. In either case, Murfie recycles the plastic jewel cases and any other insert material.

Moving your movies...

With movies, it's a little more complex. If you're an unreformed movie geek like me, DVD and Blu-ray versions of favorite films are much harder to let go of than music on CD. I don't mind watching classic documentaries on Netflix, or catching back episodes of 30 Rock on Hulu. But I'm not letting go of my Criterion Blu-ray reissue of Diabolique for anyone.

You can certainly rip movies to digital in similar fashion as music, but its more complicated and requires a lot more storage space. For new DVD purchases, many high-profile releases now come packaged with a digital copy for porting to your iPad or iPhone or iWhatever.

That still leaves the issue of old DVDs on the shelf. As of now, there are some limited marketplace solutions to converting your old DVDs. Walmart's new Disc to Digital service, that launched April 16, lets you bring in old DVDs to the retail store, where they're "converted" into digital copies on VUDU, the online video service Walmart gobbled up a couple years back.

Details on the service are still a little cloudy (heh). Conversion runs $2-$5 per title, only certain studio titles are supported, and it appears that you keep your original disc regardless. Not ideal, clearly, but you can expect similar competing systems to emerge soon.

The Old-School Approach...

In either case, music or movies, you can always fall back on the analog method and try to resell your CDs and DVDs. You can usually find an independent store in town that still buys used movies and music, but they're an endangered species indeed, you won't make much money, and those guys are always cranky for some reason.

You're much better off selling online, vie eBay or its ancillary service Half.com, which specializes in reselling movies, music, book and video games. They've got a nice system there, and once you learn the ropes of selling and shipping, you can get a decent return selling old CDs and DVDs — especially anything new or unopened.

Finally, there's always the charitable option — tax-deductible and good for padding your karma account. Over the years, our local Salvation Army has taken enough off my shelves to launch a half-dozen film and music festivals.

Note: This was written by Glenn McDonald, a Digital Crave contributor.

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