The Evolution of Entertainment: Effects of Technology on the Publishing and Video Rental Industries

This essay will compare two industries that have undergone extensive changes through technological evolution. I will examine the manners in which the publishing industry and the video rental industry have been drastically altered by technological advancements in recent years. While both industries have undergone substantial changes, the video rental industry has been changed less comprehensively and on less levels but with more dramatic results.

Technology has affected both the publishing industry and the video rental industry by altering the form the product takes, its’ distribution, and the way the product is consumed. As a result of all of this, the perceived value of the product has gone down for both industries. To begin, I will compare the effect of technology on the form of both products. Videos have taken many forms throughout the years, beginning with VHS videocassettes, then progressing to DVDs and Blu-Ray, before becoming digital files (Tech Time Machine). The publishing industry is following a similar path with the introduction of digital eBooks. Books can now be purchased in either physical, digital, or audio form, providing readers with increasingly more options for consuming content.

Technology has also affected the distribution of the product for both industries. For the publishing industry, the introduction of Amazon and online purchasing has greatly altered the manner in which customers get books. Whereas at one point in time their only options were a brick-and-mortar bookstore or a library, they can now purchase print books through an online distributor or forego them altogether and purchase digital files. The options for obtaining videos have also changed drastically with technological advancements. Beginning in the late ‘80s it was popular to rent physical copies of VHS videocassettes or DVDs from companies such as Blockbuster; the way customers get videos today is quite different. Rather than rental agencies being the dominant distributor, online streaming and subscription services have exploded in popularity (Halal).

Finally, the way books and videos are consumed has been transformed by technology for both the publishing industry and the video rental industry. The changes that the two products have undergone are extremely similar and can be directly related to the increase in the availability of digital files. Videos are now frequently watched on laptops, tablets, or smartphones in addition to traditional television sets, and books are now read not only in print but also by using the above-mentioned devices, as well as eReaders (Zickuhr & Rainie, 2014).

While these similarities are important to note, I feel that it is most critical to highlight the effect that these changes have had on both industries and their parallels. The ultimate result of the increase of digital files has reduced the value of the product in the eyes of the consumer. With online streaming and piracy so convenient and accessible, consumers are no longer satisfied with paying the price they would have several years ago to rent video content (Liedtke, 2014; Halal). We can see a similar result in the perceived worth of books; if eBooks are being sold through online distributors at a fraction of the cost of print books, it can cause the ultimate value of the book to drop drastically in the eyes of the consumer.

The most distinct difference between the publishing industry and the video rental industry is the degree to which they were affected by these changes. I would argue that the publishing industry has been affected on more levels than the video rental industry – for example, it is clear that the way books are written and produced has evolved drastically with the evolution of technology. For instance, there is a growing relationship between author and reader, as the writing of books becomes more interactive. Some authors are choosing to allow readers to give comments and feedback as the book is written, and are putting these suggestions towards their work (Lloyd, 2008). This type of producer-consumer relationship is not as present in the video industry. The consumers remain consumers and those that do produce video do so on a separate channel – for instance YouTube or personal websites. The way in which videos are produced and content is created has not undergone as many cultural changes due to technology as those of the book.

Despite having been affected on less levels, the resulting changes seen in the video rental industry are more drastic than those seen in the publishing industry. This is evidenced clearly in the effects of changes to methods of distribution and how the products are consumed. As mentioned above, the methods consumers use to get ahold of the respective products have changed. For the video rental industry the change was astronomical, which is not the case for the publishing industry. This is clear in the decline and bankruptcy of rental agencies, along with the simultaneous rise of subscription services such as Netflix. These services have removed the need and desire for rental agencies by providing convenient accessibility to videos at a reasonable price. In the publishing industry, we have not seen this eradication of traditional distribution methods. While there are other options, many consumers will still choose to purchase print books in a bookstore (Association of American Publishers, 2015). Though subscription services are offered as a method of distribution for eBooks, they have not exploded in popularity as in the video industry. This is due in large part to the fact that they are not seen to provide the same level of value to the customer, and many are lacking in popular titles and authors (Wood, 2015).

The difference in the effects of technology on the publishing industry compared to the video rental industry is most clear when we examine the manner in which the respective products are consumed. While the publishing industry has introduced new, digital methods to consume content, these have not replaced the form that preceded them. eBooks and eReaders are a supplemental option for consumers, an alternative to a print book but not necessarily a replacement (Shatzkin, 2015). This is very distinct from the video rental industry where every new technological advancement fully replaced that which came before it. The introduction of DVDs rendered VHS cassettes obsolete and, following that development, the rise of subscription services and online streaming are now replacing DVDs. The video rental industry barely exists in any form other than subscription services (Khanna, 2013), which is certainly not the case for the publishing industry.

The publishing and video rental industries are very comparable as both underwent changes in methods of distribution, the way content is consumed, and the physical form of their products. For both industries, these changes have led to a decrease in the perceived value of their product. Where they begin to differ is when we begin to examine other effects of technological changes. The changes in methods of distribution and consumption of content appear to have affected the video rental agency in a much more absolute way than they have the publishing industry. Although the publishing industry has been altered in every aspect imaginable, the effects of these changes are not as dramatic as the changes to the video rental industry.

Works Cited

Association of American Publishers. (2015). “Monthly statshot: March 2015”. http://media.publishersmarketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/2015_03_AAP_StatShot.pdf

Halal. “How Netflix beat Blockbuster: An exemplar of emerging technologies”. http://billhalal.com/?p=295

Khanna. (2013). “How the content industry almost killed blockbuster and netflix”.
http://techcrunch.com/2013/12/27/how-the-content-industry-almost-killed-blockbuster-and-netflix/

Liedtke. (2014). “Redbox is raising prices because people don’t rent movies anymore”. http://www.reviewjournal.com/entertainment/redbox-raising-prices-because-people-don-t-rent-movies-anymore

Lloyd. (2008). “A book publisher’s manifesto for the 21st century”. http://thedigitalist.net/blog/2008/05/manifesto-download

Shatzkin. (2015). “The publishing business as we have known it is not going away anytime soon”. http://www.idealog.com/blog/the-publishing-business-as-we-have-known-it-is-not-going-away-anytime-soon/

Tech Time Machine. “The evolution of video”. http://mashable.com/2015/01/09/ces-tech-video/#gvrqfa4Eskq4

Wood. (2014). “Aiming to be the Netflix of books”. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/07/technology/personaltech/aiming-to-be-the-netflix-of-books.html

Zickuhr & Raine. (2014). “E-Reading rises as device ownership jumps”.
http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/01/16/e-reading-rises-as-device-ownership-jumps/

 

 

3 Comments

  1. The author has produced a well-written, clear and easy-to-follow piece outlining how technological developments have affected the publishing industry and the video rental industry in terms of lowering the perceived value of the products associated with each industry.

    Structurally, the piece is a success because the argument is logically presented in two main sections: the former discussing how technology has changed the two aforementioned industries, and the latter outlining the effects of these changes on the perceived value of these two industry’s products. The first section is further split into three points: changes in the form of the products, the methods for distributing these products and how these products are consumed. This provides a timeline that concisely examines the historical and technological changes in both the publishing and video rental industries. Because of this, the author has succeeded in building a stable contextual foundation to build their argument on, which efficiently facilitates the reader’s understanding.

    The conclusion of the timeline funnels down to the most interesting and crucial part of the essay– the decreased perceived value of books and videos as the content of the two industries being discussed. The author outlines the two industries’ present states: publishing houses continue to provide books for the market, but video rental agencies have basically disappeared, being replaced by subscription services and purely, digital and intangible formats. Also, the eBook has not killed off the traditional print book, but the digital video format, however, has completely replaced physical VHS tapes and DVDs. While the author does discuss the effects of technological developments on the two industries, I feel this last portion of the essay could be more in-depth, especially considering how it contains the author’s main argument and the most interesting point.

    Why is it that both video and print content exist as physical objects in a concrete manner, i.e VHS/DVDs and printed books, but somehow books hold so much more value than physical video formats? If we think about books as a stand-alone object, we can consume it, just as it is: a collection of pages with printed words on them. However, with VHS tapes and DVDs, they are yet, another type of digital format that requires the use of other machines (VHS/DVD players, television, speakers etc) to consume. This is the fundamental difference between the two objects, and I think the author could have offered more insight in the piece if they took one step further and thought about why it is that eBooks have not overtaken analog formats like purely digital formats from the internet or streaming services have overtaken the video rental industry. If we think about both formats this way, the decreased perceived value of both industries’ products are not only due to technological advancements, but also because of the very nature of their formats. Although VHS tapes and DVDs represent video content in physical formats, they cannot be consumed as-is, like we can with printed books. I feel that this is a very important part of the argument that was not addressed by the author, so although their argument was well presented, it was missing some very important information.

    • Although the first part of your review, like the essay, is mostly just a summary, the second part brings up some clear criticisms of the work, and some general suggestions for improvement. It picks up on a key missed opportunity by the author, the discussion about how video formats are two incarnations of digital, while books are analog and digital.

  2. This good essay suffers from a bloated introduction, which leaves all of the more interesting insights for the latter half. It offers several paragraphs of a fairly superficial account of the technological developments in both industries, and account that could have probably been taken as a given. These developments would have been better used to strengthen the points made in the latter half, by having them woven into the argument instead of set apart at the top. A stronger organization, combined with a more in-depth analysis, would have greatly strengthened this otherwise good essay.

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