Re: [Videolib] Students paying for access

From: Shoaf,Judith P <jshoaf@UFL.EDU>
Date: Fri Nov 13 2009 - 13:35:08 PST

I just thought I would stick my nose in here as someone who has taught & also edited a scholarly journal, has a husband who is a literature prof., etc. I run a language lab, hence some examples.

The library is funded via tuition and other university income, right? Students are already paying for it, as a flat part of tuition or via their parents' taxes supporting the university. French students are not singled out to pay for the subscriptions to, say, journals about medieval French history and literature. They may never see, much less use, these items, and the subscription may be very expensive. I happen to be interested in medieval French history and literature, and I am always amazed at & grateful for what is available at the library.

On the other hand, students in first-year French have to pay $100-200 for a textbook packet (perhaps including a paper workbook, audio lab workbook, and/or key which allows them to access online workbooks and multimedia). Moreover, the publishers of these books regularly issue revised versions, ensuring that used copies can't be recycled for more than a few years; the workbooks/passkeys are only good for one student, anyway.

On the third hand, instructors here are now required to make their reading lists public well in advance. Bookstores order based on what they perceive as their share of the local market. Students may order books from Amazon,, or other sources, leaving the bookstore with unsold inventory-though I believe the campus bookstore has a special arrangement by which it can be reimbursed for the books of scholarship students.

(On the fourth hand, no bookstore will ever order the Xhosa textbook, which comes from South Africa. There may be only 4 Xhosa students a term and it is too risky to expect them to pony up the $85 it costs (and ordering them on the internet is too complicated for the students). So: after 2 years of monitoring this class, I have never seen a copy of the assigned textbook.)

(Finally, there are course-specific fees. All students in certain courses have to pay a fee for materials used, e.g. for chem. labs -this is where the library streaming fee comes in.)

So you have a combination of resources: the "scholarly" ones that may only get used once in five or ten years but are of great value to the individual who uses them; the books which complement course work and allow students (or faculty) to research projects, work on independent study, or swot up a subject; and, finally, textbooks, which are quite different, are published by a different kind of publisher, and which aim to make a maximum amount of money.

Additionally, the journal subscriptions are increasingly bundled for digital access by groups like JHMuse or Ebsco. This way, instead of paying 10 subscriptions to 10 journals on medieval French history and literature, a single subscription includes all 10 along with 100 other journals on history and literature. I like this.

The price of scholarly books has gone through the roof, BTW: you regularly see collections of essays priced around $100. Remember that scholarly publications (as opposed to textbooks) usually offer $0.00 in royalties. My husband had to borrow $2k from my mom to publish his first book (which did become a book that many scholars on certain topics "have read" and quote, but never got him any royalties). He has made a few thousand dollars from one book, which was designed to be a textbook (in advanced medieval English lit classes).

Professors write and publish articles and books in hope of getting promotions and sabbaticals during which they write more articles and books. I assume that many documentaries get made either through grants (which include support for the filmmakers) or by academics who are rewarded with promotions rather than with royalties.

How does this apply to video? Gary says that he buys some expensive videos because he feels they are important and have application to the relevant fields. OK, that is what a librarian does, like the area librarian who subscribes to the medieval French history and literature journal. I was just looking through a catalogue of documentaries and I can see that many of these are much like a scholarly article, offering a valuable presentation of specific information, not necessarily of interest to undergrads at all, but something that anyone researching the topic would want to consult. Maybe there's only one person every 10 years who is researching the topic at a given institution. Still, that information will be valuable when it is needed.

If some kind of consortium could sell annual subscriptions to a bundled variety of digitized documentary films, I would bet that libraries would subscribe. Instead of ordering one film for one professor, or like Gary ordering a film in the hope that he can persuade Prof. X to use it in class, they have access to whatever any professor needs (within the bundle's limits) for a year. Maybe Prof. X doesn't want to use it in class but wants to watch it and then wants to watch other documentaries by the same person to evaluate his/her method.

Back to the film-as-textbook.

If Criterion, say, sold a bundled "course pack" of online classic European films to students (possibly in the form of a CD sold through the bookstore, just as the online-lab-manual passkeys bundled with textbooks are sold through the bookstores), giving them one year's access to 10 or more required films plus, say, 4 others recommended or ad lib., I'll bet that professors would assign this purchase.

Better yet, authors of textbooks on film history could work with the rights holders to obtain this kind of access for their students. Instead of the library streaming it, the publisher would stream it and collect $$ from each student who buys the textbook. Let's see-you sell the textbooks + access key for $80-$100; you get much less dough than you would if you sold each student a copy of each film, but a lot more than if they relied on screenings + library or rental copies.

How do you keep students from sharing the passkey? (1) limit the number of times a student's password allows access to a given film; or (2) set up a course management system which reports to the instructor that a student has actually watched the film and, say, completed an online quiz. In the case of 2, the student might invite friends over to watch Casablanca or Rules of the Game on his computer, but every enrolled student would have to buy a passcode in order to get credit for the film. Throw in a discount coupon allowing the student to buy hard copies of the films at half price or something, to discourage hacking.

Of course either of these suggestions involves a huge up-front investment in preparing the films and setting up a server that would do what is desired and handle the load. I think it took about 8-10 years for any language textbook company to develop really useful online "workbooks" (basically a course management system which scores multiple-choice and short-answer quizzes, incorporates multimedia, collects spoken recordings and compositions, and delivers it all to the instructor).

Judy Shoaf

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 Fri Nov 13 13:36:12 2009

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