Netflix is changing the world


by Kenneth Justice

~ In 1940 Lowell Thomas began broadcasting television NEWS live in what would eventually change Western Culture in ways unimaginable at the time. In the course of the next sixty years Western Culture would go from a society based on reading to an aliterate society, that is, people have the ability to read nowadays, but simply choose not to read.

A friend of mine who used to think of himself as an intellectual told me recently, “Kenneth, why do I need to read a history book when I can just watch the History Channel?” Sadly I believe my friend represents a great majority of people who have found reading a book much too laborious and would rather turn on something to amuse themselves as oppose to more serious though and reflection.

I was in a used bookstore over the weekend and a young couple walked in and I couldn’t help hear the dude tell his girlfriend, “Yea, I guess with the Internet I don’t really have time for books anymore. Actually, I can’t even remember the last time I even held a book, probably back grammar school”.

Television changed the way we process information; instead of learning things in the linear fashion of reading the newspaper or a book, we were taught to ingest information via visual stimulation. “Zoning” out in front of the “Boob-Tube” became a nightly ritual all across Europe and the North Americas .

With the advent of the Internet, people started reading a little bit more, but as more and more studies are being released, researchers are finding that people aren’t reading much depth of content. Short blurbs, and Facebook status updates contain such little substance that one is left to wonder if we were better off getting our information from the television than off the Internet (even writing that sentence gave me chills).

As Internet speeds got faster and technology improved, a little website called Netflix started streaming movies, and before we realized what happened, it’s now safe to say that Netflix has changed the world. With over 50 million subscribers and more every day, a new phenomenon has occurred in which people are ditching cable and traditional television in favor of only having the Internet in their house.

I myself gave up cable nearly five years ago and haven’t thought about going back even for a minute. With the ability to read the news on a million different Internet sites, the option to live stream user created channels, and the availability of movies on demand via Netflix and other sites, going back to traditional television would seem rather strange to me at this point.

Over the weekend I binged watched the newest season of the Netflix original show House of Cards. While I won’t give away any of the spoilers, I believe its important to note that it had been some time since I looked forward with such anticipation to a “TV” show as I did with House of Cards. For more than a generation big TV networks like BBC, ABC, NBC, and CBS had a stranglehold on how we processed information, NEWS, and entertainment. The TV networks were as much responsible for shaping Western Culture as the music industry. However, with the success of Netflix, even those non-readers, those people who spend their evenings in front of the TV, are starting to cut the cable cords in search of cheaper options.

Netflix is changing the world because it is causing people to leave cable and traditional television. Instead of spending every Thursday night for six months watching each new episode of our favorite TV show, we can merely spend the weekend watching the entire season on Netflix, and then feel free to spend the next few months pursuing other endeavors.

Netflix is changing the world because they are setting a precedent for lower costs of entertainment. Instead of paying more than a $100 a month on cable, Netflix costs under $10. The people who ran the big TV networks are losing their grip on influencing society; as more people move to the Internet, the ability of a single blogger, writer, or video producer to get their own ideas out to people is becoming the norm.

Now we’re only left with one simple question, will people ever start reading books again?

Just a few thoughts as I sipped my coffee,


Categories: Culture & Society

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

19 replies

  1. I’m going to keep libraries in business forever. (a. Through regular patronage; b. through modest donations; c. mostly through paying library fines)

  2. As much as I also like watching films and series the 10 dollars almost like the 20 dollars we pay for just simple standard cable.
    True one can watch when they can on netflix and as often as one can. But with the new recorders I can do to.

    It just shows the thought is different per country. But I also like watching the news, and the local shows on times. So netflix may have 10 dollars for entertainment but that is not the local kind so cable is still appreciated.

    If by any change the newer generation would only like action movies we might need to worry about what that will do with culture when it isn’t seen anymore through cable.

    Just two cents worth of thought.

  3. Oh if only I could get my husband to get rid of cable! He loves his sports, I doubt that I’ll ever be untied from a cable company. I would be happy with quiet.

    • Get a Roku streamer ($50-80). Sling (channel) is $20/month and has ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, etc. All live. He can also get MLB, NFL and other paid channels. Even with this expense, it’s still a lot cheaper and better than cable.

  4. I bought a book the other day……. one made of paper………I really did.:)

  5. So true. With Netflix, Hulu and Youtube a person really does not need cable at all and most of the big news stations now stream live over the internet. So goes the way of the world. Great post!

  6. Love Netflix. We have been cut from cable TV for almost 8 years (with a few months hooking back up and regretting it here and there). It definitely jump started my journey back to books.

  7. On average it takes Netflix about 2 years to upload the sequel to anything, movie or TV series, here in the UK, so convential cinema and TV watching is still better than Netflix. Generally, the Netflix UK offering is quite poor, containing a large percentage of rubbish movies and TV series they bought cheaply. As for reading…the libraries here are very well populated with readers meeting up to chat about books. As US TV and movies are generally speaking so dumbed down that a pig or badger would find it insulting, I can understand why anyone with an ounce of brain would rather head to the Internet than watch US TV.

  8. Will people ever read books again? I was in hospital recently and read seven good books from the hospital’s library. Is Netflix changing the world? With its mounting financial losses, and its ever increasing subscription cancellation rate, the answer can only be, NO. If you think US TV is bad you should try the BBC!

  9. Lol I have been getting books on tape lately been on the road so much great way to hear a book is to have it read to you. I had my daughters get me some hard backs paper books for Father’s Day almost done with those. Love books. If you come to Portland Oregon I will take you to Powell’s Books best book store I know

  10. Hi Kenneth,

    I doubt that book-reading was ever as prevalent as the nostalgics among us like to think. Most people simply don’t read a lot of books, if any at all–and that probably hasn’t changed much since the advent of books.

    On the other point of your piece, when the Internet first started to get big, I thought that TV, telephone, and the Internet would merge fairly quickly. That turned out not to be the case. And from what I gather, it was not the case because the traditional television and telecom companies resisted it with every fiber of their being as a threat to their profits.

    Unfortunately for them, it’s getting to the point where they are losing their ability to resist it any longer. And as far as I’m concerned, the sooner they lose their grip on the flow of information and entertainment, the better!

  11. Kenneth, you might want to think of the “depths” and “qualities” of the recent popular books.

    Most of them are predecessors of blocbkusters, with the same -sorry to say- cheapish quality.

    Together with the non-children children books, the less scientific science books, honestly, what to read?

    If you read Gogol, that is cool, but, can you find it -in a visible place- in any “popular” bookstore (or e-book list)?

  12. We got unplugged from the cable several years ago and have no intention of going back. Good riddance! We have a Roku wireless video streamer, spend about $20-25/month for everything we need. We mostly watch Netflix, Amazon, PBS and Acorn (all Brit TV!). But best of all, no commercials. 🙂

    As far as getting our information from TV, the History Channel would be the last place I would want to get history. They are annoyingly wrong about things a lot of the time. You cannot beat books, especially, original sources. Although, a lot my books are now on Kindle. I still frequent used bookstores. Internet is very good but, of course, you have to be careful what you read because any nut can have website and declare himself an authority. But there are lots of good news sources from all over the world.

  13. Reading books is overrated. You can read 1000 books and still be an idiot. It’s just a different form of entertainment and another option on how to take in information.

    • Books rely on a different type of mental stimulation than a book does. It depends on what you read. A graphic novel is different than reading a literary work which is different again from reading a science fiction novel. I cannot begin to number the books I’ve read from studying law to anthropology to hard SF books to various novels and non-fiction works. In general, I have picked up at least one nugget of information. I have learned to exercise my mind because much of what goes on in a book is developed in the mind of the reader.

      I do not dislike movies. I have some on DVD that I watch from time to time for the cinematography of them. I simply prefer the complexity of a book where nuance is the word of the day.

    • Movies, not books, rely on a different kind of mental stimulation. Boy, that’ll teach me to proof better.

  14. I prefer reading. I do have netflix. I don’t own a TV. Netflix has good closed captioning services.

  15. I watch TV for the local stuff – news and weather, so I guess I will be clinging to cable for a while longer, but I do long for the days of rabbit ears. Dinosaur that I am, I still like to read and I can’t imagine a day at the beach, an airplane flight, or a lazy afternoon on my patio without a book.

    As I hear more and more about the demise of books, I can’t help but wonder why, if books are on the way out, that so many people seem to be writing them. It seems like everyone has a novel in the works (including me). We may not be producing a generation of readers, but we seem to be producing a generation of writers. My email box is overflowing with authors promoting self-published books (and by the way some of them are quite good). I only wish I had the time to read them all as writing requires a great deal of time, commitment and focus.

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