March 6, 2009

Craft DVD rental

You know how sometimes there’s just something going on in the air and you can’t help but notice seeing an awful lot of mentions of it?

(And no, I’m not talking about the Watchmen movie. Don’t get me started on that, I live with an Alan Moore purist and we will not be going to see it).

Something I have noticed popping up a lot recently: Smartflix, a Netflix-style rental service for crafty- and superspecialized DVDs, as well as a trend towards LYSs renting craft DVDs for an upfront charge (usually around $5). But, if you don’t return it within a week, you are charged for the full amount less the $5 you put up front. This isn’t new — I can’t remember who it was, but in the pre-DVD era, some enterprising person rented craft-related VHS tapes, too.

My initial thoughts on services like these, especially the ones where you-forget-to-return-it, you-bought-it…

  • Pro: Good way to see if it’s actually useful to you before you buy
  • Con: Creator of the DVD sees none of that rental revenue and potentially loses sales (I’m not sure how the old-school movie rental places did it, but there’s got to be licensing or something in place, yes?)
  • Pro: Wider exposure for your DVD
  • Con: It’s not exactly difficult to rip DVDs if you know what you’re doing

Et cetera. What do you think? Does your LYS rent how-to knitting DVDs? Would you rather rent them for $5-10 dollars, or just have the ability to buy them upfront at a lower price? Most knitting DVDs I would want to purchase (cough! cough!) are in the $20-50 range.

If you had a choice between renting it for $5-9 and just flat out buying it for $10-15, what would you rather do? Or is $20 a reasonable price for a DVD of a class you’d pay $40 or more to take in person?

I’ve got a dear friend who is a filmmaker and we have contemplated making DVDs of some of my more popular class topics since I don’t teach in person as much anymore — too busy with the magazine and stuff! That said, this trend towards rentals is intriguing and a little scary. I hate to be crass about it, but if I won’t be able to make a decent return on the amount of effort it would take to create a really good quality DVD, then it’s not worth doing, at least not immediately.

The bonus, of course, is that I’d be able to reach a much wider audience than I would with classes — not everyone is local to where I teach, or easily able to get there, and if the cost of a DVD-based class or series is less than what a class generally would be in person, then that’s a consideration for the end user, too.


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  • Elizabeth D

    I rarely buy knitting DVDs, because they are expensive and I know myself well enough to know I won’t use them enough. And I don’t rent them, because, again, I know I’m likely not to return them on time. If they were less expensive I’d be far more likely to buy them, no question at all.

    Reply to Elizabeth D
  • Post authorShannon

    So what’s the sweet price point for you, Elizabeth? I know some people think $5 is too high for a pattern PDF…what’s too high/just right for a DVD? 🙂

    Reply to Shannon
  • Elizabeth D

    Hmmm . . . I think once it’s over $20, I know I won’t buy it. And I probably would have to consider pros and cons for a while before I went over $15. It’s funny; I have no problem paying $5 for a pattern, knowing how much work went into it. (Only a pattern that’s interesting and unique, though — generics I can invent for myself.) I know most DVDs include more information than a single pattern, but I guess it’s just not the way I think. Possibly because with a DVD I’m tied to computer or DVD player, whereas print media work wherever I am, with no advance planning.

    Reply to Elizabeth D
  • Kristen

    I have rented craft DVDs (and videos; Halcyon Yarns in Bath, ME, has done rentals for years). Several titles I have rented once, returned, and that’s it. There’s one title I did buy after renting, and a couple more that I am seriously considering buying (again, I’ve already seen them, and still think about the way a certain technique was presented, so I know I’d look at them again).

    I think that the $10-$15 purchase price would lure me towards direct purchase. At $20 or more, I hesitate, unless I already know a good bit about the content and/or teacher. With a book or magazine purchase, I can flip through it and decide that there are enough projects I’d make to justify the purchase price; with videos, it’s much trickier, since generally previews are not available. I think it would be smart marketing to make limited previews available, so potential buyers could see what they’re getting. And I realize that some people are doing this already (via YouTube, if not in some other way), but it doesn’t “feel” to me like this practice has become the norm.

    Re: licensing agreements, yes, I’m sure that there’s a difference between initial purchase for private use, vs. initial purchase for commercial use (rentals, public performance) or library circulation. Just look at the difference in prices between individual-use and library-use subscriptions to scholarly journals. It seems perfectly fair to me to require LYSes or other rental agencies to pay more upfront for DVDs that will circulate for a fee.

    Reply to Kristen
  • chppie

    I live in a small town and renting is not an option but if I were going to invest in some of the more expensive DVD instructionals like Lucy Neatby, I would like to rent it to see what i thought about it first. I would then still buy it so for me it would just help me choose which of a series I might buy first.

    I’m probably comfortable with paying $20 or less without previewing if it something that seems to have either a lot of content or something I will use repeatedly. I look for good close up work and lots of well-delivered info as well as good editing so it’s not just one big ramble on film.

    I think if I bought an inexpensive DVD and didn’t feel that it had multi-use potential I’d probably just add it to the local knitting guild library. Again that doesn’t help the creator I realize but it’s more of the “get more use out of it” or “check a designer’s presentation style”. There are good things out there but some are not presented in a manner that resonates with me.

    The commentor who mentioned DVDs tying one to the computer makes a good point. I like the idea of a DVD viewing party so that it’s a more social event. However I also watch Knit2gether on my Zune and really enjoy it so if a shorter class or technique was presented in a video format for a portable device I would probably be inclined to pick it up since it gives me more viewing options.

    Thanks for giving us food for thought. Some of these things would just never cross my mind on my own. By the way, love YF! It’s become my favorite mag.

    Reply to chppie
  • 5elementknitr

    I would much rather buy then rent. They are usually too expensive to buy but if they were around $10-20, I would totally buy!

    Reply to 5elementknitr
  • Kiba

    I’m fairly certain that rental stores pay a much higher fee to purchase the DVD than an individual would pay retail.

    I actually have not taken up knitting (yet, I am sure I will eventually) but for any craft DVD I would rather rent first. I don’t have a specific price point at which I would or wouldn’t be willing to buy. I’m the type to only buy what I love or will use over and over again. I would be willing to pay a heftier price for something that was a presentation of a class, especially if I could see what the price for the class in person would be.

    Reply to Kiba
  • pixie

    Here is my ideal/suggestions;

    Create online video’s for download. Create 5 intial video’s, keep them short about 10 minutes each. Pick some hot topics. Then create some longer video’s, 20 minutes or so in which you get more indepth about those topics, and cover other hot topics.

    Allow the 5 to be downloaded for free, charge a fee for digital downloads of the other ones (driving traffic via the free ones that you can upload to youtube and vimeo etc), then aside from that you can offer DVD’s of individual or collections which you burn yourself and charge for. Just buy one of those DVD players that etches an image onto the DVD, no longer any need for fancy stickers, just some DVD burning software, and decent intro/credits to look proffesional (good lighting and audio as well of course).

    You can also take advantage of the video traffic to push sales of books/patterns/video-downloads and even google ads etc, or just SELL ad space on your video player pages for the free videos, marketed advertising is very powerful (OR even better in your free videos have a 10 second add on the screen first, paid for of course).

    Reply to pixie
  • pixie

    obviously with purchased digital downloads you can keep the cost lower, and it’s instant/on-demand vs having to package and mail it out etc.

    Reply to pixie
  • Amy M

    I guess I’ve got two specific examples in mind.

    Knitting Daily or Knitty Gritty or similar – I would want to rent. My local PBS station carried the first season of KD but aren’t showing the second. I liked KD enough to want to see the second season, but there was nothing in the first season that I need to see again so I wouldn’t want to buy it, even if it was really cheap ($5-$10)
    There are a couple of KG episodes that are still sitting on my DVR so I can reference them (Cat Bordhi teaching the mobius cast on comes to mind), but I have no interest in buying a DVD about specific projects.

    The other type of DVD is reference DVD. I took a class from Lucy Neatby last year. Not only was she a great teacher, but she used her DVDs as a part of the class. I think they are fabulous reference guides, well produced and I eventually want to own all of them. At $29 each, they are pricey…so I only buy 3-4 a year, but I could see myself using them as a reference guide for the rest of my knitting life. The way the DVDs are put into chapters makes it easy to find the short segment that you need. So I would much rather own than rent.

    I suppose it comes down to patterns versus technique. Owning a DVD for reference on a technique (especially one that only gets used one the occassional project – intarsia, lace, steeking, provisional cast on) makes a lot of sense. But if the DVD is just an interview or a demonstration of a particular pattern, I think I would rather rent and watch once than own.

    Reply to Amy M
  • Jes Deamer

    I think $20 for a DVD isn’t unreasonable, considering the detail able to be provided in the medium. As for myself, I’m a single-serve kind of gal and don’t often buy books or magazines unless they meet my minimum rule: are there enough patterns in there to justify buying the collection rather than individual pieces? With this as my mentality, I’d love to see something like “episodes” on iTunes’ TV store: have an entire knitting “DVD”/Season available at one price, but with individual “episodes” (lessons? projects?) available individually for a lower price. I don’t know if it would be popular, but I think it has tremendous potential. Were I able to teach and had the equipment, I’d do it myself. But I leave the instructional things in the hands of those more qualified and capable such as yourself 😉

    Reply to Jes Deamer
  • Post authorShannon

    I definitely like the idea of making individual segments available for separate purchase on iTunes or the like! And I think My Hero Joss Whedon has proved that people will in fact pay for the content if they really do like it/it has value to them. Not to mention that would be a similar model to the e-books on Ravelry where the separate patterns themselves are also available on their own…

    Reply to Shannon
  • Jes Deamer

    Joss is indeed the BDH for proving that if you film it well, they will pay to view 🙂 Plus, iTunes (or the like) give the preview function so people have the ability to see what they are receiving and know it is quality work 🙂

    Reply to Jes Deamer
  • Ricky

    I don’t go to many classes – the total cost (course, travel, accommodation, food, dog care, and the exchange rate) is prohibitively expensive, so I am willing to buy DVDs (though not many).

    I consider buying educational DVDs to be a risk in that, as an educated consumer (i.e. not a beginner), I have a wealth of information that I don’t want to pay to see on a DVD. Alternately, a DVD (such as those by Lucy Neatby) that have so much information that I will learn enough to offset seeing the stuff that I already know.

    This is a challenge I also encounter with exercise DVDs. The ones I have no regrets about buying have demonstrated, through short excerpts on their website and/or YouTube videos that they have new-to-me information to share and aren’t just repackaging information. Offering a money back guarantee is an option that tends to sway me when I’m on the fence. I’ve never returned anything but I like to know that the seller is so confident of the value of their product.

    As I have to pay in Canadian dollars, the cost to me is higher than the US retail price. Amazon often gives a fair price on the items and shipping so I prefer to buy through Amazon.ca. Shipping charges are a major issue. Many US companies won’t ship to Canada using USPS and the brokerage fees (plus duty) charged for international courier are often the deal breaker for me.

    Canadian companies that list their prices in US dollars only DON’T get my business (including patterns) no matter how appealing the product would otherwise be.

    Reply to Ricky
  • Ricky

    I forgot to mention that I will pay $25-30 for a DVD. I have paid $40 but it took me a year to decide and then I only bought it because I knew of someone I respected who had bought it and found the info useful. Anything less than $20 would make me suspicious of the utility and quantity of the info provided.

    Reply to Ricky
  • Dawn Brocco

    Videos of one technique or of a tv show I would borrow from the library, but I coughed up the $40 to own EZ’s A Knitting Glossary. I know I’ll refer to it for many years to come. So, for me, extent of content dictates whether I’ll save up to purchase a dvd.

    Reply to Dawn Brocco

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