High-def optical discs: What you need to know now (1 of 3)

HD DVD. Blu-ray. They’re both 12cm. discs, the same size and thickness as CDs and DVDs. They’re both primarily designed for high-definition movies and other video, with three to five times the storage capacity and playback data rate of DVDs. They’re both either just on the U.S. market or just about to reach the U.S. market, after typical delays. Here’s what I believe you need to know now—as people and as librarians.

The Short Version

Unless your academic library supports a film studies department or your public library is extremely well funded and supports a high-income population of early adopters, you can and should ignore both high-def disc formats for at least a year and probably two years or more.

If your library started acquiring DVDs in the first half of 1997, you might be one of the rare exceptions. If you didn’t start until 2000 or later, and that served your patrons well, then you need read no more: If you ever need high-def discs, it won’t be for at least a couple of years.

Film studies? You probably had a collection of 12″ LaserDiscs until recently, and maybe you still have some. If you already have HDTVs available, you’ll probably be acquiring both high-def discs fairly soon. The bad news is that there are two incompatible (for now) formats, and the early players are pricey. The good news is that the discs are priced closer to DVDs than to the old first-release videocassettes—and there won’t be enough of them this year to burden your budget heavily.

Note: This is Part 1 of a three-part post. Part 2 (the longest part, a high-def disc FAQ) will appear tomorrow. Part 3 (my own conclusions) will appear Wednesday.

This series of posts will also be a Perspective in the June Cites & Insights, if all goes as planned. That Perspective may be slightly different than the posts.

If anyone who reads this works at (or knows someone who works at) USC, or Beverly Hills Public Library, or another library that my fit into my “exception” categories (USC: Film school; BHPL: Well-funded library with strong service and at least partly high-income/high-tech population), I’d love to hear from them as to what their plans are, or whether they have any. Such responses would make the difference in the C&Iarticle.

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