Lately I’ve been busy making lists on the Internet. It all started with Netflix, a DVD rental Web site.
For those of you who are not familiar with Netflix, it’s perfect for people like me who hate movie rental late fees. I’ll rent a movie at the local video rental store (frequently after waiting in an obscene line that winds throughout the building) with every intention of watching it that night, and somehow, life gets in the way of my plans and the movie sits idly on the coffee table.
Or, while I’m at the rental store, I’ll get sucked in by a three-for offer and rent two more movies than I am ever likely to see in the allotted time frame, just because it seems like a good deal.
Too often I find myself racing back to the store to return the movie just in the nick of time but unwatched (really irritating) or returning a viewed movie after its due date (and I despise those late fees). Worst of all is returning a flick late, still unseen.
Then I heard about Netflix.
This nifty Web service is an all-you-can-view DVD rental service. For roughly $20 a month, Netflix will lend you three DVDs at a time. When you return one (via a prepaid U.S. mail envelope), Netflix sends the next available movie on your list. The wait for popular and just-released movies can be quite lengthy (“A Beautiful Mind” has been sitting atop my rental queue for several weeks, and is still listed as “long wait” status).
I’ve spent a several enjoyable hours perusing Los Gatos-based Netflix’s movie catalog and placing movies I’ve missed over the years in my rental queue. Netflix also has users rank the movies in their queue so it can send their most-desired titles first.
I currently have three Netflix movies sitting idly on my coffee table (sound familiar?), and I’ll eventually get around to watching them. But it doesn’t matter if I pop them into the DVD player tonight or next month, there will be no late fees. (Of course, if you only watch a few movies a month, and – this is key – always return them on time, Netflix isn’t much of a bargain.)
If I go on a DVD-viewing tear and watch all three movies tonight, Netflix will send the next three titles on my list – at no additional charge. Watch a lot in a month, or take your sweet time watching the three DVDs you have; it makes no difference, it’s still $20 bucks a month.
Netflix also asks users to rate movies they’ve seen, and the Web site posts the average rating (one to five stars) of each DVD it offers. Besides, it’s a lot of fun to give some of your favorite movies five stars (among my raves are “Grosse Pointe Blank,” “Unforgiven,” “Toy Story,” “The Manchurian Candidate,” “My Dog Skip” and “American Beauty”) or one star to the turkeys you can’t believe you wasted two hours of your life watching (“Swordfish,” “Lost in America,” “Mouse Hunt” and “Wild Wild West” were real gobblers for me).
But I don’t want to turn into a complete couch potato; I also want to spend a good deal of time reading. To help me accomplish that goal, I’ve discovered the Santa Clara County Library’s Web site, which allows anyone with a county library card to make a reading list and to place holds on books.
How cool is that?
I don’t know how long the service has been available – I’m probably really late to the party – but I love the idea of looking for books whenever the mood strikes, whether or not the local library branch happens to be open.
You can also use the Web site to check the status books you’ve placed on hold, see when books you’ve borrowed are due, and sign up for e-mail hold and late notices.
There is one downside to all of this – I’m so busy making Web-based lists and deciding which books and movies to borrow, it’s eating into the limited time I have time to read or watch them.