Source: Wired News
By: Katie Dean
A Netflix-like system for trading your unwanted DVDs with others through the mail sounds like a cool idea. But in practice, you wind up with a stack of old discs that no one will take off your hands.
That's been my experience with Peerflix, an online movie-swapping service that applies the principles of peer-to-peer file-sharing to physical DVDs.
he idea is simple: You sign up at the website, list the DVDs you own and DVDs you want. When another Peerflix member requests your movie, an automated e-mail alerts you and you send the person the film through the mail. Likewise, when you request a movie, another member is alerted, and you should have it in your hands days later. You pay $1 (plus postage) for every exchange.
Unlike the online DVD rental service Netflix, there's no central DVD warehouse -- the movies come directly from other film fans.
Peerflix has more than 30,000 DVDs in circulation, up from about 5,000 in February, according to the company. But the company will not disclose how many people have signed up for the service.
The test started out well. I signed up and received an introductory mailing from the company two days later, faster than I expected. The packet included four special envelopes for mailing DVDs. As with Netflix, you only send the DVD, not the case.
The movie swap itself was great. I started with one DVD, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which was requested by another member only a few hours after I registered. I sent out Rocky Horror to someone in North Carolina. After surrendering it, I chose the hilarious Down With Love from someone in Southern California. It arrived three days after I requested it. Cool.
To trade movies, you must earn "peerbux," which is a value assigned to every film in circulation. New releases like Sideways are assigned three peerbux; older films are either one or two peerbux. Boxed sets can cost six or more. You acquire the peerbux associated with a film when you mail it off to another user. The value of Rocky Horror and Down With Love was two peerbux each, so it was an even trade. My first trade on the site was free (I didn't have to pay the dollar fee), a promotion the company offers first-time users.
Then I relied on my co-workers to provide a few of their unwanted flicks for the test. They brought in some older but critically acclaimed films, As Good As It Gets and Amadeus; a mediocre action movie, Mission: Impossible II and a very, um, "niche" film called Trekkies 2.
But just as I was getting jazzed about trading DVDs, the system ground to a halt. After several days, the collection I had cobbled together was not generating any interest, and sat in a pile on my desk. At the same time, it was frustrating to navigate through the system's occasionally buggy and clunky website.
Billy McNair, co-founder of Peerflix, said most DVDs are usually requested within 10 days to two weeks, depending on the titles. New releases like The Aviator, which just came out on DVD, are snapped up immediately, he said.
My little collection of DVDs had been taking up space for about a week. My solution, then, was to buy peerbux so I could order more DVDs. While peerbux is a value assigned to movies in circulation, you can also buy peerbux from Peerflix, enabling you to obtain certain films that you don't have enough peerbux to get on your own.
Unfortunately, I ran into problems when I tried to buy peerbux (a name that is confusing, since one peerbux costs $5). The transaction didn't work after four attempts. McNair said the company was upgrading the site, and that peerbux transactions work "95 percent of the time."
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Swap DVDs Online for a Buck
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