In the age of instant streaming and catch-up TV, who on earth bothers with box sets anymore? Clunky, brick-like things destined to take up far too much room on your sagging shelves.
Er, well, the answer seems to be - a lot of people. A lot of people bother with box sets. They appear to enjoy having such abundance in a box and they'll happily splash the cash for a complete series of Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Lost or a £150 nine-disc set of Miles Davis' "Original Mono" Columbia albums. Browsing some of the conversation threads on the topic of box sets, here's what I've learnt (or think I've learnt) about why people like these bulk-bought CDs, DVDs or Blu-rays:
*(Most obviously) people buy them to "catch-up" on a TV series they missed out on or want to re-watch in its multi-part entirety (hence newspaper articles that act as a "guide" to the mind-boggling world of TV box sets)
*People think they're a bargain and will buy them because they're "a steal"
*People think they're expensive but buy them anyway, sometimes saying things like (in the fairly typical male-slanted context of the comment threads) "I buy them when the missus doesn't know what I'm doing"
*People like the packaging - both the containers (some very extravagant) and the booklets and other "extras"
*People buy them to give as presents (hence sites with lists of "Five box sets to buy this Christmas")
People are driven to own everything put out by a particular musical artist or TV series writer - the completists
Oh, okay, there are probably lots of other reasons why people buy the things (impulse purchases?, the HMV-haunting 50-quid-a-week man with his regular splurge?, people simply succumbing to relentless marketing? etc ....), but to me the interesting thing is possibly that last one - the drive to own everything by a specific artist/band/TV series writer. I know the feeling. Sort of. I went through a version of this with some of my earlier music and film enthusiasms - thinking it almost necessary to get every New Order record or to watch every Werner Herzog film. But it never quite came to that in the end and the completest urge has now worn off ... er, almost completely.
Own them all. Yours to own. Commerce obviously tries hard to connect with - or generate - the hoarder instinct and it seems to succeed best with ... men. Yes, I know this is a bit of cliché - the list-making chap with his fetish for neatly-arranged shelves of stuff - but it seems to be borne out by the evidence, including concerning "pathological collecting".
And I must admit, dear reader, that I too am a collector or borderline hoader. Books, vinyl records, cassette tapes (pre-recorded and copied recordings), mini-discs, CDs, DVDs, MP3s (this last category seen as a form of sacrilege for the true "solid media only" box set buyer). Though I've experienced the usual issues with space and collapsing shelves, I don't see any of this as a problem. Rather, it's an integral part of life - or something. Anyway, in the interests of research for this post I've double-checked to see what box sets I personally have on the shelves. Strangely, very few. And they're all opera! - including a four-box set of Wagner's Ring Cycle (14 CDs in all), bought second-hand last year at an Amnesty sale (bargain).
Back on the comment threads people are saying things like "I have somewhere in the region of 150 box sets", or "I have so many King Crimson box sets it's not true!" (both genuine quotes). I've also just seen that you can get last year's Motörhead "The Complete Early Years" 15-CD deluxe box set from Amazon for £201.35, which tempts me ... not in the least. That said, if rare concert footage/audio of artists like Bruce Springsteen, The Police or U2 is your kind of thing, I know the ideal 17-hour box set for you ....