[Videolib] (no subject)

M. Claire Stewart (claire-stewart@northwestern.edu)
Wed, 28 May 2003 14:57:51 -0500

Gary, I don't think we're necessarily disagreeing, but see what you think.

Some more thoughts about a possible future: why should we wait for
the licensing scenarios to kick in? Do we have to wait for the
equivalent of Elsevier (or maybe Disney, I guess, or Viacom) to come
in and try to force The Big Deal on us? Or worse, to do it
little-by-little so that it's hard to see the whammy coming? Can't we
have a position to begin with that licensing should be approached
with extreme prejudice? If all the biggies are planning to bypass us
eventually (?), what's to be gained by jumping in to licensing now?

Every time one of these gouging pay for subscription or DRM-ed to
death audio or video services dies a nasty death I rub my hands with
glee. Will they eventually become the norm? Perhaps, but I look to
audio as a sign of what's coming with video and I don't see that any
of the providers have come up with a good model yet for selling
digital directly to the consumer. I personally don't believe that
this is the fault of those out there supposedly pirating content,
either. I firmly believe that when there is a fair and reasonably
priced system for paying for, downloading and repeatedly using their
digital content, people will take to it.

As for whether vendors will cut out libraries and go directly to the
consumer, that was the old scary scenario with electronic print
publishing, and I haven't seen that wipe out libraries YET.
[Granted, among other differences, the print shift is a distribution
and a format shift whereas with audio and video consumers are already
accustomed to having their access mediated by technology.] Our
library, unfortunately, licenses every journal under the sun and is
getting firmly into the ebook business. My guess is that we are by
far the biggest purchasers of eBooks on campus, but of course I lack
data to back that statement up.

And I think I disagree with you about the technical problems, Gary.
Absolutely, at this point in time, it is inconceivable for even a
college library, let alone a k-12 or a public library, to consider
providing a unicast, video-on-demand service with, say, high bitrate
MPEG2. But will it be possible to do something approximating this
for some users in coming years? Yeah, I think so, maybe not as
quickly as we once thought. It may actually be true that there is a
7-year gap between the reality of text and audio archives and another
7 between audio and video (the paper expounding this theory is linked
from somewhere on this site but I can't find it right now
<http://www.dcs.shef.ac.uk/spandh/projects/swag/>) .

In the meantime, how about some hybrid approaches? Some of Lisa's
suggestions might work, though I personally would prefer that if it
arrives as a digital file, it should stay digital. But burning and
circulating CDs and DVDs could work; the purchased digital copy then
becomes an archival master. Providing a lower bit rate version for
some users, etc. should work--I'm still holding out for on-the-fly
server based transcoding. Definitely our catalog/circ systems have
to become smarter as well, so that they can handle the "circulation"
of some of these digital formats.

I agree these technologies are expensive and difficult to implement
and maintain. And I of course agree that we don't want to see
vendors priced out or squeezed out or sucked up into giant media
monster. But there should be a way to transition, gently, to digital
without losing what we've got, legally speaking.

In the meantime, if we stay in the VHS-DVD buying mode for a good
many years to come that's fine by me, I'd rather have that than DRM
shoved down my throat.


>Ok. Stop.
>Let me inject a bit of reality (at least MY perception of reality) into
>this discussion, and that reality has to do with
>1. The present and likely future of library budgets, both staff and materials
>2. The present and likely future of commercially acquired digital moving
>image content


M. Claire Stewart
Head, Digital Media Services
Marjorie I. Mitchell Multimedia Center
Northwestern University Library
(847) 467-1437
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