At what point do we stop investing in a format?

September 30, 2009 at 12:00 am 4 comments

By Tyler Rousseau

My wife and I just bought an HDTV as a spoil-ourselves gift for our five year anniversary.  Of course, being a type-A compulsive who needs to take things about one step further than necessary, I started looking for ways to extend our viewing pleasures.

While a Blu-ray player would seem to be the next logical step for most, I was a little wary.

I decided to head to the local electronics store and ask their opinions on the matter.

The employee recommended I buy the PS3, which comes with a Blu-ray.  When I asked for any other suggestions, he was ‘hesitant.”  While he clarified that there was nothing wrong with Blue-ray players (quality of video and sound was definitely superior to other options) he wasn’t positive that this format was the way to go when upgrading your media.

It was an interesting lecture (I hesitate to call it a conversation). Since his answer took well over 10 minutes, I am just going to try to highlight his argument in bullet points.

  • If Blu-ray were to take off it probably would have done so by now. It took audio CDs less than ten years to overtake audio cassettes. One of Samsung’s Executives made a statement that he thinks Blu-ray will be gone in another five years.  Not a very optimistic outlook.
  • Netflix has taken off in a seriously big way and that is not really a good thing for DVDs or Blu-rays.  It means people may be watching Blue-rays but they are actually buying less.  In fact current economic conditions have led more people to renting nowadays.
  • On the topic of increasing rentals, Redbox isn’t helping the situation.
  • Blu-ray is already in a new format war…
  • Downloadable movies are looking more and more like the next big format.  Whether through your cable provider or the Internet, the instant gratification of streaming movies, in HD no less, is a tough thing to compete against for the casual viewer.
  • While not quite ready, many TV manufacturers are looking to include wi-fi connections to their products.
  • There was one other point; something about not having to buy things, possessions being fleeting and sticking it to the man or whatever, but I’ll just skip over that one.

While this did nothing in terms of getting a sale from me it was definitely food for thought.

The lecture got me thinking about the difficulties of introducing new medias into a library collection.  It then got me thinking about old collections; more specifically, when to stop funding the collection.

Obviously, changes in formats are nothing new.  Even in the relatively short time I have been in the profession, I’ve seen libraries stop buying audio-cassettes, CD-Roms and videotapes.  More so, I’ve seen them stop purchasing the paper copies of publications in order to invest in the cheaper online versions.

And while I definitely applaud libraries who have decided to invest in Blu-rays I do wonder about how long this media has.  While 5 years seems a little short to me, I would not be surprised to see it obsolete within 10.

By all means, let me hear it; at what point do we back out from a format?

By Tyler Rousseau

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4 Comments

  • 1. waltcrawford  |  September 30, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Interesting overall discussion, but a couple of points:

    1. It’s Blu-ray. No e.

    2. It took CDs a decade to become the dominant audio format, despite being vastly superior to predecessors in convenience and sound quality. Blu-ray offers no edge in convenience…and, realistically, it’s only been a “single choice” for 18 months. So saying “it’s not going to happen because it hasn’t happened” is a bit premature. (That said, I doubt it will *ever* become dominant–but I think it’s got a healthy life ahead of it.)

    3. HD downloads mostly aren’t–they may be sent as HD formats, but with so much data compression that they’re not anywhere near Blu-ray/broadcast HD quality.

    As to the real question: My answer, other than archival purposes, would be “when it’s no longer circulating and when better formats handle all your patrons’ needs.” But of course I’m not in a library.

  • 2. Jen Hinderer  |  September 30, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Based on my observation of college and HS aged kids: disc technology is doomed, forget about 5 years. Us “old” folks will still hang on to it, so libraries will still have to carry it, but no one under the age of 20 that I know is at ALL interested in discs. They are a last resort when there are no other options available. BluRay won’t dominate because discs will be irrelevant. Listen to the salesperson and buy a PS3: at least it will still play games.

    Kind of like this old lady librarian and her audiobooks: if a title can’t be downloaded, or isn’t at least available on a Playway I’m not interested. BUT my library still has audiocassettes. Because public libraries can’t leave our patrons behind while trying to lead them along into the future.

  • 3. Tyler  |  September 30, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Hey Walt,

    Must’ve been asleep at the typing wheel there. Thanks for pointing them out, I believe I got all the corrections made now.

  • 4. RedheadFangirl  |  October 2, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    and to add to the mix, Wired 10/09 has an article about Netflix creating a box that “lets you watch every show and movie ever made- instantly”; a sleek black box, size of a paperback, with a few jacks in back.


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