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I have bad news and good news.
The bad news is that the digital entertainment you love is getting more and more expensive.
Netflix, Amazon Prime, and HBO Max (now Max) have either increased their prices or cracked down on password sharing. Spotify could also raise prices. In 2012, e-books were often cheaper than printed copies. No longer.
There is no single explanation for these rising prices. But for the most part, businesses now realize that digital entertainment may never be as popular and lucrative as they hoped.
Your loss of trust will result in a reduced supply of digital entertainment and higher prices for you.
The good news is you still have great free or cheap entertainment to cram into your eye and ear holes. Introducing the curmudgeon’s guide to digital entertainment.
I love JustWatch.com because it saves me time and money.
Search for a specific show or movie and JustWatch will list where you can stream or download it and how much each viewing option costs. You can filter the search results to only show free streaming services.
When a friend recently raved about the British TV series Detectorists – and yes, it’s awesome – JustWatch pointed me to watching it on several free streaming services I’d never heard of, including Plex. There were commercials, but I didn’t care.
To watch the latest Dungeons & Dragons movie, I could subscribe to the Paramount Plus streaming service for $9.99 per month with no ads. Or JustWatch tells me that I can rent a digital copy for a one-time fee of $5.99 from various providers such as Apple, Amazon, YouTube or Microsoft. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post.)
You won’t find a cheap way to watch anything like the latest hot Hulu series or a Netflix movie. You must subscribe to Hulu or Netflix. (I won’t go into pirated viewing options.) And be aware that JustWatch sometimes contains incorrect information.
Above all, JustWatch is a wonderful streaming companion.
If you’re dying to watch “Beef” on Netflix or any other popular streaming show, you can always sign up for a free trial and cancel before you have to pay. (See the one small win below for a tip.)
To save money, I also use the trick of switching streaming services one at a time.
A while ago I paid for the BritBox streaming service. When I got bored with the offer there, I quit and signed up for Hulu. I will be switching to another subscription soon.
I save browser bookmarks of shows I want to watch on Hulu, Netflix, Max, Amazon Prime, and other services so I know what to watch when it’s their turn in my rotation.
You also have more options if you’re not too picky about what you see and don’t object to ads.
For less than $100, you can watch a variety of TV channels near you with a digital TV antenna—if you have a TV.
There are also huge collections of mostly older TV shows and movies on free streaming services like Pluto TV, Freevee, Tubi TV, and the Roku Channel.
And Kanopy, which is available to some people with a library card or university online account, also offers free streaming movies and TV series.
Are you a Netflix subscriber? My colleague Heather Kelly wants to know what you think about the company’s crackdown on password sharing. Email her at [email protected]
I refuse to pay for a streaming music subscription. Instead, I saved song playlists to the free tiers of YouTube Music and Spotify.
It’s annoying when my workout playlist keeps getting interrupted by ads. But it’s free.
Chris Richards, the Washington Post’s pop music critic, told me that the digital service he uses the most without paying a dime is YouTube – “Not their music service, just plain old YouTube, which has a staggering amount of music .” concerts, user-uploaded loosies, etc.”
(For the uncool among us, “Loosies” are often unpolished song recordings that are not part of an official album release.)
Chris also recommended searching Freemusicarchive.org and online radio station NTS.
Other options for free music streaming with ads include Pandora, iHeart, AccuRadio, and Radio Garden, which lets you listen to local radio from anywhere in the world. There’s also the radio if that’s what you’re interested in.
Read more: Free alternatives to watch, read and listen to
I’ve heard from many Tech Friend readers who are addicted to the Libby app to borrow free ebooks and audiobooks from your local public library.
All you need is a card from a public library that works with Libby’s parent company, OverDrive. You can usually read or listen on your phone, on a Kindle, or through the website.
Search here to see if your library system or school allows Libby to be checked out.
My Libby app says I borrowed more than 250 ebooks or audiobooks from the New York Public Library for a total of $0.
Hoopla is another app with library ebooks, audiobooks, comics, and mostly obscure movies and TV shows. Check the website to see if your local library participates. Hoopla’s app can be choppy at times.
Being a technology newsletter, I’ve mainly focused on digital entertainment options. But if you like physical books, you can borrow them from friends, buy used copies from Goodwill or a site like ThriftBooks, or stop by a local Little Free Library.
Read more in The Post’s Climate Coach: Why you should buy everything used.
It’s Your Turn: Tell me your best advice for free or cheap digital entertainment. I may feature your tip in a future The Tech Friend newsletter.
I’ve written about the downsides of buying digital subscriptions in smartphone apps or through Amazon’s digital video channels like Fire TV.
However, a major benefit is that you can see all the digital subscriptions you’re paying for in one place and cancel the ones you don’t want. This includes free trials that you forgot were ending soon.
If you purchased a digital subscription from an Apple or Android app or Amazon store, here’s how to see what you’re paying for and how to cancel those subscriptions.
On an iPhone or iPad: Go to the Settings app and tap your profile name at the top.
Tap Subscriptions. If you have active subscriptions that you bought in an app, you can tap each subscription to see when it will renew and you can select “Cancel Subscription” at the bottom.
Also make sure that the option for renewal receipts is enabled (you will see the color green). You will receive email reminders about your subscriptions.
On an Android device, the instructions will vary slightly depending on the device, but give it a try: Go to the Play Store app. Tap the box with three lines in the corner or your profile picture in the top-right corner.
Tap “Payments & subscriptions” → “Subscriptions” to see what you pay for with your Google account. When you click each subscription, a cancel button will appear.
On Amazon’s website: Click the Accounts & Lists menu at the top (to the right of the search box), then click Memberships & Subscriptions.
Again, you’ll see a list of subscriptions you’ve purchased through Amazon for streaming video services like BET Plus or Starz. You can click Cancel.
(Please note that you can’t buy all digital subscriptions through apps or Amazon. Netflix doesn’t let you buy a subscription through its smartphone apps or through Amazon. You also can’t buy a Spotify subscription through the Apple app. You’ll have to go to Netflix.com or Spotify.com.)