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Goodbye, Netflix DVDs...Hello, Redbox

Netflix's price hike goes into effect Sept. 1--time to cancel that DVD subscription!

The Netflix price increase announced in July goes into effect on Thursday, Sept. 1. Subscribers, now is a good time to drop your Netflix DVD service--but keep the streaming service, of course--before the $6 fee hike goes into effect.

Rather than charge $10 a month for a single plan with unlimited streaming and one DVD rental at a time, Netflix is splitting the plan in two: the streaming and DVD service will each cost $8 per month. Combined, that's $16 per month--a 60 percent fee hike.

I plan to cancel the DVD portion of my Netflix service right away. Why? Because I rarely use it anyway. Given the slowness of snail mail, I can realistically watch only one DVD per week.

Here's how the process usually works: I order a disc online, and it arrives two to three days later. I watch it, return via mail to Netflix, wait another couple days for email confirmation that the disc was received, and then wait two more days for my next DVD to arrive.

The exact timetable varies, of course, but you get the idea. DVDs by mail are slooooow. Streaming has made me very impatient.

Dusty Discs

Another problem is that DVDs sometimes sit a week or two (or three) on my coffee table before I get around to watching them. Often this happens when I've changed my mind about my choice of movies. For whatever reason, I've lost interest in the title, and it just sits there. In the meantime, I've watched dozens of shows on Netflix' streaming service.

For me, there's no good reason to pay $8 a month for the DVD service. Even if I diligently watch every disc as soon as it arrives, and then immediately ship it back to Netflix, the per-disc rental fee comes out to about $2, give or take a few pennies. And then there's snail-mail delay.

Of course, for the latest movies and TV shows, Netflix streaming won't cut it. Its catalog, although extensive, consists mostly of older titles. Still, I'm a big fan.

For newer titles, I use several a la carte services, including Amazon Instant Video, Apple iTunes, and my local Redbox DVD kiosk. Speaking of Redbox, you can't beat a $1 movie rental, provided you're disciplined enough to return the disc the next day. (If not, those dreaded late fees apply.)

Blockbuster Lives -- Sort Of

And don't forget about Blockbuster, provided your local outlet hasn't already closed its doors for good. Perhaps it's an act of desperation, but the discs there are dirt cheap.

Recently I rented a DVD of Curb Your Enthusiasm--specifically, the first six episodes of the 6th season--for 50 cents at Blockbuster. You won't find Curb on Netflix streaming.

Eventually, of course, DVDs will go away entirely. Some critics have suggested that Netflix, by separating its disc and streaming services, is really hoping to kill off its expensive-to-operate disc business by making it unattractive to consumers.

I'm not sure if that's true. But for this Netflix subscriber, the DVD service no longer makes sense.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

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