Thursday, May 10, 2012
Story from The Blade newspaper
Chances are you've handled one of Midwest Tape's products and didn't even know it.
The Holland company, which does more than $100 million in business a year, repackages and sells DVDs, CDs, and audio books to about 4,000 libraries across the country. It got its start about 20 years ago and profits by staying ahead of the ever-changing media landscape.
When VHS tapes gave way to DVDs, the company was on top of it. Now, as physical media transitions into the digital era, the company is building an electronic database of movies, music, and electronic books for libraries. The project, dubbed Hoopla, is in the developmental phase.
"Physical media, in the immediate future, is not going to disappear," said John Eldred, president and owner of Midwest Tape. "The demise of physical media … it's going to last for years to come. How long? I don't know."
Libraries came to rely on the company because it packages CDs, DVDs, and electronic books inside durable cases. The cases are meant to withstand the impact of being tossed around and thrown into drop boxes, Mr. Eldred said.
"When you buy a CD in a clamshell or a DVD in that flimsy plastic box, we repackage them into a heavier box," he said. "It's so they can survive the drop box."
Patricia Lowrey, director of technical services at the Cleveland Public Library, said the packaging protects the library's collection from wear and tear that otherwise would destroy DVDs and CDs.
"They've been terrific about developing better packaging that's really designed for us," Ms. Lowrey said. "We really appreciate that. It makes our material last longer. We get a lot better bang for the buck because of the work they do before they sell it to us."
The company's forward-looking perspective also is a boon for libraries, which have seen an increase in demand for DVDs, CDs, and electronic downloads, said Jean Gaffney, manager of acquisition and collection development at the Dayton Metro Library. The library has seen a 117 percent increase in its downloads in the last year, she added.
"As times have changed, they have been on the forefront of changing with the times," Ms. Gaffney said. "Now we purchase all of our movies and DVDs from them. We purchase probably most of our audio books from them."
Midwest Tape employs about 340 people and has grown in spite of the Great Recession and turbulent economy. As video stores close and people lose the ability to rent physical media, they're turning to libraries, Mr. Eldred said. The company now packages and catalogs and sometimes selects whole media selections for libraries. It offers 140,000 different selections.
"We're continuing to expand," he said. "We offer almost turn-key services for libraries. … For some of the libraries, they give us a budget and we do all the purchasing for them."