Video Librarian (
Sat, 6 Apr 1996 19:25:47 -0800 (PST)

It's apparent from the posts, so far, that librarians still think they're
taking it in the shorts, price-wise; and distributors think they're
selling to a miniscule market. Gary Handman sees some middle ground (but
Gary's an angel, so he would), but I think we need to seriously resolve
some major issues in the debate before either side can really be happy.

To wit:

1) The public perfomance albatross has to slip off our necks and into the
waters of history. We are currently all over the board on this issue, and
too often, we're staring at what is a patently ridiculous scenario: lower
home video prices to public libraries (who, if they decided to show the
program--which most don't--could use ppr), and higher prices to schools
and universities (though these prices include the ppr that schools and
universities don't need). Let's call it what it is here: two-tiered
pricing, based on the observable fact that the market (universities) will
pay more than public libraries.

2) I, like Gary, don't want to lose Hmong shamanism as a potential subject
for independent video, but I don't buy the argument that indy
distributors are releasing material that's so outre that only a handful
of libraries will want to make purchases. Not only do I regularly see a
slew of videos on childcare and crafts priced in the $100-plus range from
some of these distributors, I find it very hard to believe that
multicultural and gay and lesbian titles, for instance, are priced high
because the market is so small (please). I don't agree with the thinking
that says if it's an hour long, we slap a $250 price tag on it,
regardless of the subject matter. Why not keep the price high on those
items that truly do have a very limited market, but lower the price on
those titles that would easily reach a wider audience if the price were

3) Having said all that, I do sympathize to some extent with
distributors, because video budgets in libraries are not reflecting video
activity. In other words, it's not uncommon for a public library to have
30% and more of their circulation be video, but--and here's the
problem--only devote 10% of the budget to video purchases.

I don't know what the resolution of these issues will be, and except for
the occasional dialogue such as the one we're having here, I think
everyone--both distributors and librarians--are playing a holding pattern
game, due to uncertainty over video's future and the direction that new
technology will take.

I think some of these same issues will follow us into the digital world,
so we may as well address them now. Too, I'm tired of watching really
wonderful films that cost $200 or more that I know most people will never
see. I'm also not overly delighted with devoting an increasing amount of
editorial space to really expensive titles that the distributors are
assuring me that no one is buying.

Randy Pitman
Video Librarian
3672 NE Liverpool Dr
Bremerton WA 98311
(800) 692-2270