Sunday, October 01, 2006

Titles bumped from Queue to "Saved" means Out of Print

I've just had two titles bumped from my Netflix Queue to my Netflix Saved section, suddenly, and with no explanation. One is Pedro Almodovar's All About My Mother, and the other is Henry - Portrait of a Serial Killer (20th Anniversary). The titles have gone OOP [out of print]. All About My Mother is on for $20-49.95 and Henry - Portrait of a Serial Killer (20th Anniversary) is there for $16-22.

What does it mean for something to go out of print? Well, books and DVDs are manufactured, just like shoes and toilet paper. When a publisher or movie distributer decides to sell copies, they hire a printer to do a job for them, known as a print run. They order a certain number of discs or books, based on how many they think they can sell, based on pre-orders from stores and customers. A run can be hundreds or thousands of copies. If they succeed in selling all of their copies, they are done. The Book or DVD is now "out of print." You are not aware of this until all the copies are gone from the stores.

Netflix buys many copies. Each copy lasts through maybe a dozen rental cycles before it wears out. When all of Netflix's copies wear out, they order more from the distributor. If there is a second print run or third print run, we're in luck. However, if the distributor doesn't do another print run, Netflix has no control over that. Netflix isn't about to go to eBay or Amazon or Blockbuster to buy more copies, because that would not be cost-effective.

Going out of print doesn't mean that there are no more copies anywhere. It means that the manufacturer has sold all the copies that were made. You can still find copies at your local retail or rental store, or online at other stores or rental outlets, but the price might go up as collectors and speculators take advantage of the shortage.


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  2. I've seen several titles jump to the Saved area that are most definitely still in print, such as Doctor Who stories that had only been released a few weeks ago. They stay down there for a while and then are suddenly available again. It must take Netflix some time to get replacements for unplayable DVDs.

  3. However, what happens with series is that one disc -- say, disc 3 out of 7 -- goes to "saved" after you've already got the series on the queue and nicely spread out for watching over time. You watch disc 1 and 2 over a couple of weeks. Then you wonder where disc 3 is. You might check in time and find out that the next disc coming is 4, since 3 has moved to "saved". You might not notice in time, and get disc 4. But either way, you're hosed.