Every now and again in our long and storied history of being cable subscribers, Hubby and I have subscribed to HBO and other cable network packages. Every time we did, it was ridiculously expensive given how much time we actually watch tv, let alone HBO, and even more preposterous was HOW MANY HBO CHANNELS we received. Honestly, I think at one time we had 12!
Once we had a TiVO digital recorder, we didn’t want HBO so much any more, because by then there were some series out on DVD that we could rent, and we had the ability to watch our tv shows whenever we wanted. Back in the day, I surfed to see what was on and made my selection from there. Now, I and my children sit down to watch a particular program whenever we want from the selection of recorded programming I maintain. We choose the entertainment; it does not come to us when programming dictates that it can.
I used to kvetch every time we canceled HBO or streamlined our cable package options that I didn’t WANT 12 HBOs. I wanted ONE program. And I had to subscribe to a Rockette line of channels I didn’t watch to gain access to the one program I would watch. Why couldn’t I subscribe to ONE show? Why couldn’t I reserve a program and have it recorded for me, and watch it live or the following night, and not wait for the DVD release? Why couldn’t I create my own network channel.
And hello… now technology is moving into alignment so that… I can. I can pretty much create my own television and movie network whenever I want.
I can watch those same movies and shows on the iPad, or on my laptop, and I can do that anywhere, pretty much, that I have a connection.
I can watch just about anything, anytime, anywhere. We choose our entertainment from the entire library of programming. It is our choice. OH, my stars and happy garters beneath my happy pants, I finally have my own network.
This consumer’s choice of media timing and selection is not a new concept. Mr. Rogers testified in 1979 in the case of Sony Corp. of America vs. Universal supporting the use of Betamax VCRs for home entertainment, stating that choice is important, and selecting when to partake of a piece of entertainment is not a violation of copyright:
Some public stations, as well as commercial stations, program the ‘Neighborhood’ at hours when some children cannot use it. . . . I have always felt that with the advent of all of this new technology that allows people to tape the ‘Neighborhood’ off-the-air, and I’m speaking for the ‘Neighborhood’ because that’s what I produce, that they then become much more active in the programming of their family’s television life. Very frankly, I am opposed to people being programmed by others.
My whole approach in broadcasting has always been ‘You are an important person just the way you are. You can make healthy decisions.’ Maybe I’m going on too long, but I just feel that anything that allows a person to be more active in the control of his or her life, in a healthy way, is important.
So why doesn’t publishing GET THIS?! I remain absolutely baffled by how many times people like Jane and others have pointed out the entertainment-on-demand* is not a trend that is dying. It is a trend that is growing, and more disparate forms of entertainment are converging so that I move as little as possible in acquiring entertainment. I suspect some will point to a sedentary life and an overdeveloped sense of entitlement as reasons these technologies converge for my convenience, but I think it has to do as much with the workaholic American mentality where we simply don’t have that much time for relaxation and consumption of entertainment media.
Remember when “On Demand” meant rented porn movies in your home? I do. I get a little thrill every time I fire up an “On Demand” title for Hubby and me, even if it’s an old episode of “Coupling” – the BBC version not the US version, Spiderman.
Now, some folks in publishing get this “on Demand” mentality.
Harlequin gets it: books on demand. You want digital book? At 3 am? Here’s our entire library. You can has book. Our prices are pretty spiffy, too.
The NYPL and other libraries that pay for Overdrive access to the available books released to library digital lending by publishers get this: you want book? At 3am? You can has book.
In New York City, some Barnes & Noble stores will deliver same-day using messengers. So your book that you ordered from your office that morning will be at your apartment that evening.
Amazon gets it – among their alleged goals: Every book, ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.
And if you don’t want digital books**? They’ll send books overnight for free if you’re a Prime member, or 1-day shipping for $4.00. You can get books as fast as they can possibly send them – shipped to your door.
**I am so very aware that not all of you read digital books. I do, and I prefer them for a slew of reasons. But I will never refer to your books as “dead tree” and absolutely without limit do NOT see a divide between paper and digital. You want paper? Go on with your bad self. You’re not a dinosaur nor a tree killer. You read? More power to you. Me, too. My point remains though: when you want a book, in whatever format, you want it NOW, right? RIGHT? Yeah, me too.
This is the trend of entertainment, and it’s not new. You can call it selfish or spoiled or demanding, but really, it’s not about over-indulgence. I think it’s a predictable and expected alignment of choice, because choice means power over our lives and what we consume when we consume it. Autonomy of schedule and entertainment selection does not always mean an over-developed sense of entitlement.
This weekend I want to set up our Wii so that it can browse my Netflix account, enabling us to watch movies whenever we want, or set up DVD rentals from our tv. My Verizon service already has some sort of Facebook and Twitter capabilities that I haven’t explored yet because I’m almost always within reach of a laptop or the iPad when I’m watching tv, so I have Twitter and Facebook already at hand. Hulu can also be streamed to my tv via the Wii, so I can set that up, too.
But instant delivery of books? Not even bringing up the WTF Fiesta that is pricing right now, some books aren’t available at the same time as print, others are harder to find and only in certain formats. And hell, let’s include the price problem as well: some of these books are ridiculously priced given the limitations of DRM and the dubious quality.
These are not new complaints. These are issues that have been discussed for awhile now. And I’m not one to run around screaming at publishing, “The sky is falling! The sky! Is falling!” It’s not, I don’t think.
But look at the progress elsewhere in entertainment media, and look at the puzzle that is publishing. If you’re in publishing, do you know about the alignment and collaboration of different technologies to make it easier for me to do something else: from my couch, I can watch tv, watch a Netflix movie, watch something from Hulu, play a game, or listen to music.
From my couch, it takes me about as long as a half hour comedy to find a digital book, price shop, make sure I’m getting the right format, purchase the book, download (and then strip the DRM and move it to my digital reader, the online database I access for reading on the iPad, and any other storage place I use, which admittedly are optional steps for most people but are not optional for me).
From my couch, I want to tell you again, please, get out of my way. Please stop putting up more obstacles between me and the books I want to read. Most other entertainment forms are making it easier and even working together to give me options that are instant. For me to access a digital book, I have to work harder.
Get out of my way. If you want to stand between me and the tv, I’ll tell you that you make a better door than a window. Only you, publishing industry, make a shitty door because you refuse to open, and you aren’t interested in being a window either. So move already.
Get out of the way, or give me the clicker.