[Videolib] A meditation on indie vdeo pricing in an age of fiscal apocalypse

From: <ghandman@library.berkeley.edu>
Date: Tue Nov 10 2009 - 15:35:13 PST

Hi all

I've been mulling over the spate of recent posts re tiered pricing, etc.
Mulling and stewing (sorta sounds like holiday dinner, don't it?) In any
case, I had a long and rambling post all ready to go yesterday, then
pulled my punches, went home, had a drink, slept on it, and now I think
I'm ready to put this out again for discussion.

Over the course of the 25 years or so I've been doing this job, I've
consistently stood firmly and vocally behind the pricing structures
(including tiered pricing) of our friends in indie filmmaking and film
distribution--the $200 to $400 sticker prices that have become common for
the purchase of their wares by higher ed institutions. Like my colleagues
in other libraries, I've paid these prices because, well, to quote Woody
Allen, "We need the eggs." In other words, my colleagues and I have
coughed up because: a) we understand the fiscal travails and the slim
profits of indie film distribution b) we esteem the films being sold in
this market and realize that diverse collections depend on the vitality of
the makers and distributors of this stuff c) we've had budgets which, to a
greater or lesser extent, have afforded us the luxury of buying non-mass
marketed titles.

Fast forward to 2009...Not to beat an already hemorrhaging horse, but, for
those of us in higher ed, the woods are burning, and (to mix metaphors
shamelessly) the center can no longer hold (things, in other words, are
falling apart). My budget this year took a 25% cut; I no longer have a
supplies and equipment budget of any kind (not to mention the fact that
I've been furloughed for 21 days). We've been promised that next year
will be even worse. Now, California is an extreme case (as always), but
not totally unique, by any means. I think that most of my colleagues in
academic libraries are in roughly the same position in terms of dwindling
collection budgets...

In this fiscal climate, it seems to me that survival on both the buyer and
seller ends of things is going to require some serious rethinking of the
pricing and marketing models that have been in place since the inception
of home video technologies. The "all-the-particular-market-will-bear"
strategy may very well be a coffin nail for indie distributors in the

I have most definitely had to think twice about buying the kinds of stuff
that I wouldn't have blinked about buying in the past...and, as much as it
pains me to the quick to have to bargain shop, home video is looking more
and more attractive. Again...I think we're definitely not in business as
usual territory any longer, Toto. As stewards of strapped collection
budgets, I think we're all forced to be more hard-nosed and realistic
about the relative short- and long-term value of what we're buying for
these collections.

It occurs to me that a number of distributors I know out there have, in
fact, recranked prices, sought out home video markets, tried other pricing
structures. It's obvious to me, in any case, that historical models just
don't cut it in a lot of ways. Is it justifiable to charge $300 for a
title that's been in a distributor's catalog for 10 years...I personally
think not. In this climate, am I justified in buying $300-a-pop materials
"just in case" they may be used by teachers and scholars sometime down the
road...I'm no longer sure. Can I continue to simply grin and bear the
fact that public libraries are charged a third of what I pay, particularly
when this pricing is built almost exclusively on the perception that I
have the dough and they don't...well, no, I can't.

I find it really odious to have to bring this stuff up. I am an enormous
fan of the distributors that I deal with daily and want to see them live
long and prosper... On the other hand...

Gary Handman
Media Resources Center
Moffitt Library
UC Berkeley


"I have always preferred the reflection of life to life itself."
--Francois Truffaut

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.
Received on Tue Nov 10 15:35:50 2009

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Wed Apr 07 2010 - 15:16:25 PDT