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end of an era?
So Netflix are finally closing down their DVD by mail service. Honestly, I thought it had disappeared years ago. Like the copy of Robin Hood I lost. Still don’t know what happened. I had to pay for it in the end.
Borrowing DVDs, and before that, videos, was once a huge business. But they crashed with both streaming, and before that, DVDs becoming affordable to purchase. In the 1980s, the golden age of video rental, a new VHS of a movie was cripplingly pricey, often north of $80. (Adjusted for inflation, that’s $220: a lot to pay out for a copy of Big Trouble in Little China).
This was precisely because the market was stores, which would rent out the tapes. Very few people bought VHS copies to keep (if you wanted to keep a movie you’d record it from the TV). This would change, first after the false dawn of Laserdisc, but with the arrival of the DVD. They were available to rent in stores too (as with Netflix), but became so affordable we quickly reached the point it was cheaper to buy the DVD than to pay to see the film at a multiplex. This cheapness of DVDs ate into the rental market as much as expanding TV options and streaming channels.
But borrowing media was not something that Netflix or Blockbuster pioneered. Midcentury, borrowing LPs from public libraries was common. When cassettes and CDs took over, the albums slipped out of collections.
Yet with the vinyl revival, the Brooklyn Public Library is lending records again! Hipsters can get their music fix, authentically.
Like an LP, time is indeed a flat circle.