Marc Alan Fishman: Cutting the Cord, and Shredding the Book
The other day Mike Gold shot me a quick e-mail about the WWE Network making its way to Apple TV. I should take this time to note that Mike likes me more than Michael Davis because I give him my articles on Tuesday evening, and they don’t post until Saturday… allowing him optimal time to source images at his leisure. Suffice to say, nya nya nya boo boo. Maybe that’s mean of me, it is Black History Month, after all. According to Jay Pharoah, I should opt to hug MOTU, not take pot shots at his obviously racial laziness. Damn, I’m punchy tonight. But I digress.
I’m punchy, in part, because Mike’s friendly e-mail reminded me that in my own laziness, I’d allowed a whole new technological break-through to settle into near-mainstream amongst my peers without me even considering it. For a good long time ‘cutting the cord’ on traditional cable was more a signifier of pro-active TV consumption than I cared to debate mentally. With new technology emerging, I simply didn’t ‘buy’ that I could enjoy all that I do via my traditional cable/DVR combo. I should note though that I grew up in a home without cable. When I made my way to college, faced with the sudden luxury of dozens of channels churning out reruns and crappy original programming I’d never been previously accustomed to led me down a dark and slovenly path. Frankly, it’s been the drug I couldn’t quit ever since. Well, that and carbohydrates.
I’d like to think it was my generation that started a small march towards technological freedom. I recall fondly upon signing my first lease for an apartment declaring no need to own a home phone. My parents gawked at the notion. “How will we get a hold of you?!” they’d scream. “Oh, I don’t know, you could call my cell phone, which is literally on my person at all times I’m not otherwise sleeping?” I’d retort like a hipster ordering a Miller Lite. And thus, did me and my kin take our first awkward steps from out of the cave. Soon, we were graduating from MySpace to Facebook, and getting real jobs. City-dwelling friends of mine ditched cars in lieu of state-of-the-art (smells a bit, but it’s cheaper than gas!) public transportation. And now, those who share in muh-muh-my generation are shunning Xfinity, Uverse and Ycable for a whole new shebang.
The future is now, and we better start dealing with it.
I turn back to the argument I started a few weeks prior. I postulated that if someone could figure a way to Netflix up a comic book database, it might very well be the way to take the leap into the next generation. Screw the motion comics, augmented reality links, and ultimate experiences. Deliver me a litany of comic book content on-demand, for a monthly fee so low I can’t possibly deny myself access. If my dream for ComicFlix were to come true… how long would it take to see the death of the local comic shop?
That is to say, the death of what few comic shops still are in business and making enough money to stay in business beyond the calendar year with sincerity.
Let’s ask the tough questions then. Did we all mourn the loss of Blockbusters around the country? When you go to the Comic Con and snag that graphic novel you really wanted for 50% off cover price, do you hide it under your jacket, and leave yourself a reminder to never bring it up at the comic shop for fear the counter jockey will shame you to tears as he eats his last bowl of cup-a-noodles? Doubtful on both counts. Do we come to grips with the moral dilemma of watching our medium take the necessary steps to grow… or do we cling to the past in hopes that somehow everything will just get better though sheer will power? I mean, all those successful movies will get the masses over to invest in pull boxes at some point, right? Right?
Sean Parker and the late Steve Jobs used technology to upend the music industry… services like Spotify, Pandora, and the like are set to revolutionize it. Google, Roku, Hulu, and Netflix are on their way to evolving television. All content delivery is evolving at a rapid pace. The antiquated world of comics is not an uncrackable nut. There’s money to be made, content to be shared, and new fans to convert. If we build it, they will come. It won’t be pretty. But what matters now more than ever is that we find a way to adapt. Pulp and paper can be as good as bytes and pixels. It’s time to put the books down, and flip the tablets on.
That being said, I have a review to do, and I need to crack open my copy of Avengers World. I know, I know… But I have an excuse. My wife has the iPad. Cheers to the future kiddos. Hop on the band wagon before it starts to pick up speed. Lest you have a man a decade or two older making you feel like a luddite. Natch.
We hold comic shops in a special position because they have a familiar feel to them. Very few people walk in, grab their books and leave; we stay to chat, to catch up on trivia and rumors. It carries the same social hub status as the general store cracker barrel in the old days, or the barber shop in “Urban” neighborhoods.
Unless you were lucky enough to have the kind of store like in High Fidelity, nobody holds that level of importance to a record shop.
For other types of purchases, we’re interested in the cheapest price, usually to the exclusion of all else. Most of the small mom-and-pop stores have already gone away thanks to competition by the big box places and department stores, and we only want the best deal.
We didn’t mourn Blockbuster, but most mourned the local, independent video store because (say it with me) they carried porn.