The expression "dead tree copy" is a slightly pejorative way of referring to a (physical) printed book, as opposed to an ebook.

I was wondering if there is a similar expression that could be applied to CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray discs and other physical media for music, movies or games.

  • 1
    What makes you think it is pejorative? As far as I can tell it is simple descriptive: some times dead trees are advantageous, sometimes not. Commented Dec 18, 2011 at 3:37
  • 1
    You mean digital copies vs CDs/DVDs/etc, where CDs/DVDs/etc would be the equivalent of the dead trees, right? You're not looking for CDs/DVDs/etc vs something older. The first answer made me wonder. Commented Dec 18, 2011 at 3:57
  • I added the phrase about ebooks to my question, hopefully that's clearer.
    – twsaef
    Commented Dec 18, 2011 at 9:26

5 Answers 5


Another idea: you could use "dead dinosaur copy" by analogy to "dead tree copy". (Discs are made of plastic which is made from petrochemicals which come from dinosaurs.)

  • I like this neologism, even if I don't think it's strictly accurate. Oil and stuff comes from mostly plant matter doesn't it?
    – twsaef
    Commented Dec 18, 2011 at 9:28
  • Yeah, I thought about that, but I figured the idea is pretty firmly ingrained out there. Call it poetic license. Or use "dead plankton copy" if want to be more accurate. Commented Dec 18, 2011 at 14:19
  • Coal comes from plants, oil comes from animals (in general, exceptions on both sides). Commented Dec 19, 2011 at 10:07
  • I know this is old, but: When discussing motor oil, car people sometimes talk about "dino oil" as the opposite of "synthetic oil", suggesting that it's made of dead dinosaurs vs. synthetically produced. Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 6:03

I always refer to CDs, DVDs, etc as physical media. But that's more plainly descriptive, and I'm not sure it's a good analog for dead tree copy. The term seems to be used fairly commonly to describe the "outdated physical form" concept:

The Decline and Fall of Physical Media Retailing: A Timeline

Are you finished with physical media?

Why I Already Miss Physical Media

  • +1 I always say "physical copy" but I did not realize it was common usage.
    – JeffSahol
    Commented Dec 18, 2011 at 4:08

You could go for "hard copy". For something like a document, a soft copy is a digital file and a hard copy is one on paper (i.e. something that you can hold because it is "hard"). For music or a movie, I don't see any other interpretation of what a "hard copy" would mean other than a disc (although the nitpicky might object on the basis that a disc still stores digital files)


I used to call those free AOL CDs that were everywhere "beer coasters."

  • I quite like this suggestion, it's sufficiently derogatory; beer coasters are round in shape; throwaway; cheap; and easily replaceable. And if I'm not mistaken, you're not the first to call CDs, or DVDs that. So +1 from me!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 4:08
  • Yes, "coaster" is the first thing that came to mind when I saw the question title. People actually do (did?) use CDs without useful content as coasters. Applying the word to suggest that CDs/DVDs are entirely obsolete seems like a great fit. Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 6:11

For music, you could refer to having it "on vinyl", i.e. on a record, but many people would not consider that pejorative. If you specifically want to be demeaning about it, you might refer to the "8-track edition" of something; I don't know of anyone who considers the 8-track format decent.

For the other things (movies & games) there really isn't a "baseline" format like the 'dead-tree edition' of a printed book that's been around essentially forever; about the best you can do is refer to some specifically outdated format like LaserDisc.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.