Venture out of the digitized confines of Manhattan and into the cyberpunky outer boroughs, and you might discover what Kirk Semple, a New York Times reporter, did: entire video rental stores catering to the tastes of Korean, Senegalese and Indian immigrant communities. Most everyone agrees that VHS is dead, but not everyone can give up the grainy pleasures of a Kuch Kuch Hota Hai cassette, or even a ripped-from-Cinemax version of Kuffs.
One market keeping the VHS trade alive in New York are people wary of a steeper-than-needed learning curve for operating a DVD player (think of menus, chapters, extras versus the much simpler play and fast-forward buttons!), to say nothing of those who fear the Internet. Whatever convenience is lost in the DVD-VHS trade-off (even the New York Public Library doesn’t accept video tape donations anymore, says one guy who acquired a few Blockbusters’ worth of cassettes) is made up for with the knowledge that you’re watching something that few other people can. And it occurs to me there’s another nice thing, too: the irreplaceable pleasure of going to a place to browse for videos and meet others who share the same inertia – or just a love for that certain je ne sais quoi of an old, sturdy, mechanical cassette tape.