In the wake of Blockbuster Video shutting down for good, there’s been a strange wave of nostalgia for the loss of a company that was generally disliked. There’s always a certain discomfort that comes with change and over time the villain who drove all the really good independent stores out of business ends up as a regular part of the landscape (and sometimes all you have left–see Barnes & Noble as the last standing bookstore in many communities).

I can’t say I was ever a fan of Blockbuster, nor a frequent client. The disappearance of my local branch won’t make any direct difference in my life but it is part of a continuing worrisome tradeoff that we’re making as a society, choosing the lower prices and convenience of the digital realm over retaining jobs and revenue in the local community.

And like all old timers dealing with change, I reserve the right to wax poetically about how things used to be (at least when I’m not busy shouting at kids to get off of my lawn). With that in mind whippersnappers, behold the majesty that was the Video Store:

David Crotty

David Crotty

David Crotty is a Senior Consultant at Clarke & Esposito, a boutique management consulting firm focused on strategic issues related to professional and academic publishing and information services. Previously, David was the Editorial Director, Journals Policy for Oxford University Press. He oversaw journal policy across OUP’s journals program, drove technological innovation, and served as an information officer. David acquired and managed a suite of research society-owned journals with OUP, and before that was the Executive Editor for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, where he created and edited new science books and journals, along with serving as a journal Editor-in-Chief. He has served on the Board of Directors for the STM Association, the Society for Scholarly Publishing and CHOR, Inc., as well as The AAP-PSP Executive Council. David received his PhD in Genetics from Columbia University and did developmental neuroscience research at Caltech before moving from the bench to publishing.


10 Thoughts on "Tell Us About the Old Days Grandpa: Video Rental Stores"

Just wait till Star Trek Replicator technology becomes commercially available. Those chain stores (supermarkets, Wallmart et. al.) that killed off so many mom and pop operations will get their comeuppance as well.

Libraries are becoming the new Blockbuster. The DVD collections they are amassing are impressive. Still, will anyone leave home to get a movie, even if it’s free?

Tower Records
1960 – 2000

40 years of selling music….. having spent my college era in NYC’s Village, Tower on 4th and Broadway was a community – a live one. Now its about making that community through shadowy profiles, twitter – a virtual one. I miss the record store too!

My perspective has been the evolving “iTunesing” of media – which is now occurring in academic and publishing in general – why buy the entire journal/magazine when you can download the article?

The concept of “album” or art through a longer medium than a 3:25 track is pretty much gone.

+1 on both missing record stores way more than video rental stores, and your concept of the “iTunesing” of media, a phrase that gets at the heart of the difference: not just getting _the whole thing_ in a different way (a movie via Netflix vs. Blockbuster) but getting only a part. That said, the iTunesing makes more sense in some contexts (journal articles) than others (albums, unless they’re just an arbitrary collection of songs with only one good one). I’m old enough that when I hear certain songs, I hear in my head what the next one is supposed to be. . . .

I saw the Violent Femmes last night at Roseland in NYC and they played their first and by far greatest album front to back. The place was alive in part due to what you said – everyone knew what was next and kept the energy flowing. Kinetic.

Journals can do this as well by providing powerful content page after page/click after click.

With altmetrics gaining momentum (perhaps not the soft social side but the research impact side), journal titles may (with a capital M) become less a factor – however, that erosion process I believe will take a long time if at all depending upon how the journal title can impact the altmetric.

Nice blog. As someone who still supports my local independent DVD store (they even stock some VHS tapes!), I think a key legacy of the big chainstores was showing us how important the indies are! (same goes for the music industry – look at movements like Record Store Day…)

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