You've Got Mail

This Sunday night I got roped into watch a bit of You've Got Mail, the 1998 romantic comedy starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. So you know the story already because it was a re-make but what interested me viewing it again was how the movie highlighted the effect of the mega-store on the independent bookstore while ignoring the how the internet and digital publishing would transform the book market. In the current market, Meg Ryan's independent store AND Tom Hank's superstore are under assault by Amazon, Google and other digital marketplaces and technologies. That the internet would transform bookselling receives no mention in the movie as far as I saw.

This is highlighted by the central position of AOL in the movie. Today, AOL is how your grandmother gets on the internet, but in the late 1990s, AOL was the Google of its time. According to net pudnits, AOL was poised to take complete control over the internet. The 2000 merger between AOL and Time Warner heralded the creation of a Net superpower. AOL would provide the internet access and Time Warner would supply the exclusive internet content. It didn't work out that way and the merger was an epic failure. AOL was spun off late last year.

You've Got Mail highlights the fact that the current crisis in the book industry is at least a decade old (and decades older than that), and nobody has any clue how things are going to shake out. Google looks like a potential net superpower, but so did AOL. Google was first incorporated the year You've Got Mail was released. The Kindle was not even on the drawing board.

So pull up a chair and relax. The crisis of the book is going to take decades to play out and there are going to be alot of twists and turns along the way. It would make a hell of a movie.


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