Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Farewell to my faves…

Our neighborhood video store announced they would be closing at the end of this month and put their entire inventory up for sale. We stopped by and bought a few cds. I felt like I was scavenging through the belongings of a friend that just passed away. I guess I took it for granted it would always be there.

I refuse to rent from Blockbuster, which also has a store in our neighborhood. Ironically, they are closing too. The convenience and selection of Netflix is so easy, most video stores will probably go by the wayside—if they haven’t already. We did Netflix the first year they launched, but became disenchanted with it for too many reasons to list here and quit our membership.

Jason dragged me to the 8th Annual San Francisco Documentary Film Festival this past Sunday afternoon at The Roxie theater near our apartment. We saw the film, I Need That Record, which chronicles the demise of the local independent record store—focusing on a few closing shops in Connecticut.

The film also has interviews with Thurston Moore, from Sonic Youth, and a handful of other music aficionados commenting on the current state of record stores. It portrayed the neighborhood record store as more than just a retail outlet, but as part of the community and a social place for people of all ages to go.

I left the film feeling very melancholic, and a little bit angry. I want to blame technology for what I think are the negative shifts in our culture, but it’s not really the technology to blame—it’s much more complicated and involves so many different factors. And I know, everything must change and evolve.

Mr. Peacock should make a documentary called, I Need That Magazine. I grew up reading and enjoying magazines. My mother was a magazine junkie, mind you she didn’t subscribe to Better Homes & Gardens, or Good Housekeeping—she bought Interview, Ms, Vanity Fair, Details (when it was a downtown Manhattan cultural guide), W, and Prevention (when it was just text and a few illustrations) to name a few. Of course my dad got all of the Golf Magazine titles, which bored me at the time.

Above: Some of my favorite Gourmet magazine issues—new and old.

I still enjoy the physical experience of sitting and reading a magazine, saving it and reading it again later on. I guess if I didn’t have that experience, and grew up only with the Internet, then maybe an online magazine would be a similar experience for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Internet and have many favorite online magazines, I still prefer to have a hard copy of some of my favorite issues. I’ve read the newspaper online for almost a decade, but I still like to buy a physical copy of the Sunday New York Times.

Mr. Peacock embraces and celebrates technology, but some of the side effects on our culture and society seem bittersweet. Of course
I love blogs—which are sort of like the new form of leisure reading, instead of magazines. But I’m mourning the loss of many hard copy magazines (ie Gourmet), used bookstores, and local record shops.

I feel fortunate that I live in a city that has unique and independently owned stores and restaurants—all within walking distance of my home. It saddens me that a kid growing up somewhere outside of a big city will only have chain restaurants (the same ones across our country), Borders Bookstores, and Walmarts as choices for their local cultural experiences. Admittedly, these kids can find and explore the Internet—if they’re curious and long for something more, but it’s not the same social experience as the real thing.

Mr. Peacock’s hope for these endangered media favorites (magazines, local bookstores and record shops, and art film houses too) is that they start to reopen as niche shops that cater to a narrow clientele that specifically wants what they’re offering.

Our favorite local record shop, Aquarius Records (above), has weathered the storms for 30 years by focusing on offering a unique selection of music in a small shop—but also having a great website too (you can hear samples and read honest reviews). The staff is all music aficionados who love music—many are in bands too. That energy is reflected in the store.

There’s a fantastic bookstore nearby called Get Lost, which specializes in only travel books and maps. It’s great because if you’re going on vacation to say, Italy…you can go peruse everything on Italy. Yes, you can do that on Amazon too, but it’s different comparing titles in person. I admit, I succumb to the conveniece and the great prices on Amazon, but I still like to patronize my local shops too. I don’t want to end up with one monopoly online store.

Many great magazine titles have shut down in the past few years, but many new titles have also launched. So I'm optimistic about the longevity of magazines. One of my favorite launches from the past few years, Buckstyle, segued from a hardcopy magazine to a web magazine (you can read about BuckStyle's founder and editor, Steve Doyle, right here).

I think there’s still a market for magazines, but it’s a niche market that will be willing to pay more for a quality magazine. So the cost of publishing the magazine will weigh more on the reader (with a higher newsstand price), than relying on the income of selling advertisers. I look forward to the new titles that will launch in the coming years. There are only a few good local newsstands left in the city. Luckily, I can walk to almost all of them (see one above)! And support my favorite titles!

What’s your thoughts on the state of technology and media? Do you have a favorite little shop in your neighborhood?


Susan said...

So many people are into reading gadgets these days, but I love holding a big fat glossy colourful magazine and flicking through pages of beautiful photographs - as well as enjoying cleverly written, inspiring articles (as well as the ones in blogs of course). In the UK we have some great local newspapers. My absolute favourite was London's Evening Standard - but then a couple of weeks ago they made it free of charge and it's not available at my local newsagent any more - nor any of the shops I've asked (including Selfridges) ... I'm very curious to know where I can find my daily copy - I'm feeling a genuine sense of loss without it

MJ said...

I’m constantly bemoaning the triumph of the big box stores over the independents.

One of the best bookstores in Canada, Britnell Books, closed its doors after 100 years of service. They’re online now but it’s not the same as perusing the shelves and leafing through the books yourself. Ironically, a Starbucks is in its present location.

The indies also had the advantage of staff who offered expert advice. I’ve yet to find a salesperson at the local Chapters bookstore chain with any knowledge of literature and if asked for suggestions can offer up nothing other than the latest Dan Brown title.

I don’t blame technology as I enjoy online access to magazines, newspapers and books. I do see it as a problem of not being able to keep up with the competition from big chains and in many cases, being forced out of business from rising rents.

I still make it a habit to shop at the indies …what’s left of them, as well as take advantage of technology.

Stop me before I continue this rant.

Excellent post, by the way.

pve design said...

Yes, I have a favorite spot to go for a cup of coffee, a poached egg, toast and a bevy of magazines....when you pay, they always have something nice to say and a quote for the day to take with you.
"Sunnyshine" is the name of the spot.

jason said...

Nothing can take the place of a real magazine for me!


You mom was super cool darling! I almost cried when they announced Gourmet was shutting down...I was quite sad with Domino Magz as well! Time is changing our landscape indeed~ My fave magz are still Wallpaper & Interior Design...hope they'll make it!

noinim said...

I am STILL opening a record shop, damnit.

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