Sounds like a weird question, but I'm totally serious.
As entertainment media companies are continually merging into larger and larger conglomerates, they focus more and more on their bottom line. If something doesn't sell millions of copies, it's a failure. It quickly becomes no longer available. And, in this age of eBay, that means that speculators will grasp up every copy they can find so they can try to sell them for inflated prices.
Given today's technology and the ever-shrinking costs of disk space and bandwidth, not to mention printing, why are there so many books, CDs, and movies that are only within the reach of collectors willing to shell out a lot of money?
Books: No one really cares about the edition of a book except for a bibliophile. Period. What's important is the content.
Most people prefer regular books. That's a given. But if there were something I really wanted that was only available in PDF format, I'd take it. I wouldn't mind paying a buck or two for it, maybe more depending on the length.
But publishers never really used the e-book format to its full advantage. Few e-books were released that weren't available in printed form, and those that were unique to the electronic format were almost always short stories or novellas. The publishers were far too concerned with copy protection. Never mind that Stephen King had already proven that, if you offered e-books on the honor system, enough people were willing to pay for it to make it profitable.
Back in college, a friend gave me a battered book by an almost forgotten beat-generation novelist named Richard Brautigan. Unfortunately, it's one of the few books (Trout Fishing in America) that's been made available within my lifetime. I've checked in every used bookstore I've set foot in, looking for additional books, and have come up with about a half dozen over the past twelve years. The others I've only seen online, and at prices that I wouldn't be willing to pay for a Snowspeeder re-release.
But someone owns the copyright to these other books. It would cost, what, pennies a month to store them on a site? If they were sold as downloads for $1 each, well, they could sell one copy of a book every two or three months and still turn a profit.
That's just one example. But if people are paying huge sums for books like these, then that means there are people who want to read them. Who gets the markup on these? The seller. Not the author or the publishing company.
So, what do they have to lose? Nothing. They just need to get their heads out of the sand.
Music: This one's even worse than books. Not only are there tons of old records that have never been released on CD, but any CD that's not by one of the top-selling acts or an act that is universally regarded as iconic is doomed to a short production run.
Ever try finding solo albums by members of bands you like? It's pretty freaking tough to do. You special order them when they come out, or you're SOL. I don't know how many times I've seen something, thought, "Hey, that's out on CD! I'll have to pick it up later," and then never seen it again, learning less than a year later that it's hopelessly unavailable.
Even the icons have incomplete catalogs on CD. Queen has probably a dozen or so B-sides that are impossible to find, and half the back catalogs of all four Highwaymen (Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and even Johnny Cash) were never released on CD or have been out of print for ages. (I've seen a Willie CD from as recently as 2003 sell for more than $200!)
Again, people obviously want them.
Unlike books, though, digital transmission of songs seems to be taking off. iTunes and other services probably account for more music sales than CDs nowadays. Only trouble is, aside from a small handful of exclusive tracks, their offerings are exactly what you can buy on CD in the store!
With the music industry cracking down to an absurd extent on filesharing, the outlets for finding even illegal downloads of these tracks are drying up. And they weren't that good for finding obscure stuff in the first place. (I've been trying, and asked others to try for me, for several years to find the tracks from Buckingham-Nicks' and Y Kant Tori Read's only albums.)
So, in other words, the music industry prosecutes even kids who swap MP3s, but they foster the environment for filesharing by not making a lot of this stuff available! I at least have a credit card, so I can order online. What's a kid supposed to do if he wants an album other than the 7000 copies of the latest Britney Spears carp that fills pretty much every store that sells CDs? (And, despite what the conglomerates seem to think, the number of minors who like music from before they were born is far from insignificant.)
Jesus, don't even bother remastering it. Just upload 'em to iTunes in the flat-sounding 1980s stereo, or even in mono, and sell them for $0.99 each. It's not rocket science.
Movies: More or less the same as music. There are several threads here about movies that have never been released on DVD, or that are unavailable.
A shining example: The rights to the Transformers and GIJoe cartoons were lost by Rhino a couple of years ago. All the DVDs went out of print. GIJoe wasn't even finished. A subsidiary of Sony BMG Music (yeah, I don't get it either) got the rights to both, as well as other cartoons, and were planning new DVD sets that would blow the old ones out of the water.
The only one that was released was The Transformers: The Movie. And it did quite well for a double-dip on a 20 year old cartoon. But Sony BMG Music decided to focus on music, and recently shut down the DVD subsidiary. Silly me has to ask: since the rights are held within Sony, why not allow, oh, I don't know, one of the other few dozen Sony-owned movie companies to release them?
Jeez, even comic books! I can't afford to buy, say, Amazing Spider-Man #121, but why doesn't Marvel have it available as a cheap download through their site? Okay, that may be a bad example, since it's available in paperback somewhere. But what about GIJoe #155, the final issue with an infintessimally small print run, which sells for as much as $100 and has never been reprinted anywhere?
Ten years. That's how long the technology for easily transmitting music files has been around. Transferring movies is something that's only more recently become feasible, and the technology to transfer straight text has been around a bit longer.
But we're looking at a decade where the entertainment industry has been too caught up in the "next big thing" to pay attention to the enormous back-catalog they're simply sitting on, doing nothing with.
If they'd put less effort into b****ing at us on every broadcast of the Grammys and Oscars, and more into looking at how to actually satisfy us by giving us what we want?
It's just really damned frustrating.