Big box sets

Usually I resist buying Big Box Sets.  I never did much with my 9-CD box of Stax music, for instance.  The Mar-Keys are good but rarely my first choice in the morning.  Otis Redding I already knew.

But surely nominal values should not matter (…tell that to those guys are arguing whether Pluto should be a "planet," a "pluton," or a mid-sized boulder.)  Why is buying a Big Box Set different from buying a bunch of individual CDs over time?

There is a neuroeconomics critique of Big Box Sets.  So much of the pleasure of a purchase lies in the anticipation of the buy rather than the having.  The anticipatory pleasure of a Big Box Set, no matter how large, is not so much greater than the anticipatory pleasure from a single CD.  Yet once you own a large box it sits around.  You can’t listen to the CDs all at once.  They start to feel "stale," and then you go out and want that anticipatory fix again.  Bryan Caplan aside, the anticipatory pleasure of "listening to the seventh CD in the box" is somehow not the same.  So you buy some more CDs.  The Big Box Set sits dormant.

If it is a really big box, you can’t even look forward to the pleasure of "finishing it off," and consigning it to the basement where probably it belongs. 

I have just bought Miles Davis’s 20-CD box "Live at Montreaux", used I might add.  These CDs override all of the strictures against Big Box Sets.

This is fortunate because in my future lies the eight-CD Miles Davis Live at the Plugged Nickel and the 6-CD Miles Davis and Gil Evans.

The Music of Islam is another worthwhile 20-CD set.  And I would like to buy a 20-CD box of Fela Kuti, if they put one out.

Here is my previous post How Quickly Should I Go Through My Stock of Battlestar Galactica?


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