Netflix! You got your (corporate) chocolate in my (non-profit) peanut butter!

Oh Netflix, why can?t you just be a library? Oh, wait?you ARE a library! Sure, you?re wrapped up in a company and a series of web services and efficient delivery, but your product really IS a library.

Or is your most important product acutally your series of web services and efficient, market expectation meeting delivery? Hmmm…
We (libraries) have the same deliverable, physical (or e-content) products Netflix has. Scratch that. We have much, much, much more than Netflix! Our libraries collections blow Netflix away. Far, far away. So what?s the problem?

The problem for libraries is infrastructure. We don?t have the Netflix infrastructure. We?ve got WorldCat and Open WorldCat, which hold promise, but where is the infrastructure (including appropriate pricing)? Libraries just don?t have the series of web services and efficient, market expectation meeting delivery that it takes (and will increasingly take) to succeed and thrive in a world of increasingly important information delivery and content provision.

As non-profits, couldn?t we just charge cost for an expanded level of service for patrons that selected to buy in. I know that idea upsets a fair hunk of library folks, but remember, it is an increasingly ?content, not containers? world now. Love it or hate it, it’s where we are now and it has to be effectively dealty with. People (aka patrons aka consumers aka customers) don?t give a hoot if they get what they want from the local library, from Amazon or from iTunes. A huge percentage of folks don?t even give a hoot if they have to PAY upfront for a service that might be free (but more slowly delivered and/or less easy to access) at their local library. Heck, I use Netflix (love it) and I have a Public Library less than a mile from my house. For goodness sake, if I’m doing this personally and I am so bold (or presumptuous?) as to write the “Libraryman” blog, something in the system isn’t connecting effectively.

So let?s figure out a way to get together and offer our “better libraries” to people the way we really need to. If we are truly all about providing information, content and services and not overly concerned about rocking the boat, that?s what we need to do. It’s what we’ll have to do if we want to stay vital to our user base.

Two more thoughts on Netflix:
Why, oh why isn?t it common for libraries to let patrons have on-line accounts with sortable hold lists like Netflix? This is a no-brainer. Vendors? Quick! Somebody come up with an open source third party plug-in!

Finally, from the Netflix Fan blog comes an interesting list of the author?s favorite things about the service. Libraries could learn a lot from seriously thinking about this list. (no wise cracks about his porn comments, please).
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
My Favorite things about Netflix
Easy to use Website,
Easy to use service, and
DVDs are an easy to use medium
No commercials (unless you think banner ads are commercials)
No storage limitations
Easy to change your address, so your movies can follow you anywhere
No equipment to buy or lease (yet)
No contract
No installation (yet)
No cancellation penalty
Cancel anytime
Constant stream of movies coming and going
I get nothing but what I want
Less risk of getting a crap film
No schedules
No due dates
No wasted trips to video store for out-of-stock titles
No traveling to and from the video store
No forgetting what to rent
Biggest selection possible
No late fees
Learning about new films I didn’t know existed
Keeps me within my budget
Free shipping and handling
Rapid turnaround
Clever envelope design
Clever distribution system
Widely loved by a great online community of fellow members
No porn
RSS feeds
Member reviews
Great recommendations system
It’s not Blockbuster, Wal-Mart, or Amazon
Easy to buy cheap DVDs
Easy to share movies, ratings, and recommendations with Netflix Friends
Gift subscriptions
Zillions of previews
Do you have a favorite thing about Netflix which I failed to mention?

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