For many, new technology is synonymous with convenience and selection. iTunes with its immediate access to music and video alike. The Kindle and Nook offering books in a flash. Netflix delivering movies online or by mail. But, a closer examination and day-to-day experience demonstrates things are not always what they seem.
My daughter was recently tasked with writing a report for History on the movie, “The Conspiracy Theory.” Released nearly 15 years ago (1997) and starring then hot stars Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts, the flick at one time was a staple of Blockbuster and Hollywood Video stores everywhere. Trying to find the film in 2011 proved virtually impossible. Video stores, which at one time offered an incredible selection of movies from its earliest days to present, are gone, replaced by OnDemand and Netflix. Neither carry the movie. Thankfully, a fan had downloaded it in 10-minute segments to YouTube and that’s how it was ultimately viewed and reported on.
Similarly, I can still recall the first time I set foot in a Border’s. It was like a library, offering virtually anything you wanted to read, at your fingertips. Amazon.com comes close to offering the selection but forever jettisons the excitement and impulse buy of a new book, discovered and perused directly from the shelves. And, while the Kindle and its ability to possess a book within seconds brings some of that magic back, the selection is far from adequate.
And then there is music. Once again, the deep catalogue selections once offered by the record stores are rare if not inexistent. The Big Boxers and then downloading are largely to blame; today, even the Walmarts and Best Buys devote little more than a row or two to tunes, and even then just new releases and Greatest Hits packages. Conceding defeat, by limiting inventory they have forever driven their CD buying audience to iTunes and the online-like. This presents a real problem for listening to music in the car. iPhones with headphones are one option but if you don’t have Ford or Lincoln with Sync, sharing your downloaded music with others is an uneven process at best.
We’re at an interesting multi-media crossroads, now nearly mid-way through 2011. And I would argue that high-tech, while intriguing and sexy, is not always more practical. It is however, for better or worse, here to stay.