[Videolib] Tiered pricing: a modest proposal

Judy Shoaf (jshoaf@clas.ufl.edu)
Thu, 13 Nov 2008 12:14:38 -0500

Having kind of provoked this discussion, I found the range of responses
interesting.

I ran a media library for a little while and was surprised by the (then)
two-tiered pricing structure. I had no say (or little say) in what was
purchased--it was based on requests from film faculty and from various
departments. Our film profs would rather buy 10 Kino or Criterion
classics than one $300 video even if it was needed (e.g. by a grad
student for a thesis!).

University libraries have for a while been dealing with insane prices
for printed matter. My husband and I frequently marvel over the prices
for books in our field (medieval studies). The rule is that the more
specialized the audience the higher the price. The assumption is in fact
that only libraries will buy them--there is no tier for someone who
actually wants to own a copy of that edition or festschrift, though some
journal subscriptions may give a break to private subscribers.

But now many journals and other materials are available electronically,
on reserve for classes or via library subscription to electronic journal
services like Jstor. You can access them from a campus computer or from
home on a virtual network using the basic "Gatorlink" (this is UF!)
authentication. Part of the point of this is that maybe only one person
on campus will ever want to read a particular article, but that person
can access it conveniently. Even though I was the ONLY person who used
an expensive electronic resource in our trial period, the library has
subscribed to it. It is more than a convenience to have searchable
materials one can use from one's desk.

There is a budget at some places for this kind of resource, the kind
that takes up only virtual space.

Maybe the future relationship of some of these specialist film companies
(esp. documentary) with college libraries should in fact take an
electronic shape. For example, if one charges $25 for a personal copy of
a DVD but $250 for the right to stream the same film to anyone on campus
who is interested, that would make some kind of sense, wouldn't it? Only
institutions have networks like this, and so the seller would be
offering a version tailored to the needs and resources of institutions.

It could be used in the classroom and consulted in the library, as
before, and previewed on an office computer or reviewed by the student
at home with secure login. The company could add further charges for PPR
if it was wanted.

It might not get seen by more people than a DVD copy (given the limited
interest in the topic) and it would take up more library resources in
terms of delivering the product, but it would SEEM as if the library was
getting more for the money.

Judy

VIDEOLIB is intended to encourage the broad and lively discussion of issues relating to the selection, evaluation, acquisition,bibliographic control, preservation, and use of current and evolving video formats in libraries and related institutions. It is hoped that the list will serve as an effective working tool for video librarians, as well as a channel of communication between libraries,educational institutions, and video producers and distributors.