I’m not a technophobe. I am an early adopter. I use twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Foursquare and a range of other junky applications. I can no longer conceive of how I lived prior to the purchase of my first iPhone. The only thing that I absolutely cannot stand about this brave new digital world (the only thing I’ll be discussing here, at least) is the increasing trend towards rejecting physical formats in favour of totally online content. Namely, the trend away from Blu-ray (formally DVD) discs that come in neat little boxes and books made out of… you know… paper.
Allow me to clarify – I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with watching a movie online or reading a book on your Kindle. I’ve certainly watched movies and television programs online when this was the most convenient method of viewing them, and on one occasion while travelling I did put myself through the unusual and unsatisfying experience of reading Milton’s Paradise Lost on a phone. What I am saying is, these are merely convenient alternatives for those times when the physical universe cannot make available the materials you need.
Everywhere I look people are converting their DVDs and Blu-rays and uploading them to sleek, faceless portable hard drives. Everywhere people are throwing out their books faster than a fascist-rally to clear space for the empty wall in their house that will now be used for…. Who knows? Everywhere I look, people are downloading massive amounts of film and television content and referring to this content as their ‘collection’. Collection? What a tragic bastardisation of the word – a term that once referred to a large array of thematically unified objects that have been sought out over many years with much love and care. Now it means “a bunch of crap I downloaded last night”.
But why should I care about what other people are doing? I can read my books and watch my films in any way I want – why shouldn’t other people be able to do what they want? Well, of course, they should. My concern is that this move from the physical to the online will be an overwhelming trend that will end up totally destroying the physical print and Blu-ray film markets (just as is happening in the news-media industry right now with devastating and homogenising effects on the quality of news).
Why is this bad? Maybe it isn’t. But for this humble writer, right here and now, the smell of the printed page is holy, and the wall of films that adorns his living room is priceless. Am I simply scrambling to hold on to something that must inevitably pass, like the mass-popularity of the record player or the VHS? Almost definitely. But I’ll continue to hold on until, like Burgess Meredith, it’s just me and my library – the whole world having long since departed into the online ether.
Here endeth the grumpy rant.