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Publishers Hitting Vid Books For Reading, Renting And Retail

As video shelves get more cluttered and video prices more confusing, consumer guides and magazines are carving out a new niche. Publishers – from vidstore chains to small entrepreneurs to major program suppliers – hope puzzled consumers will embrace info on what movies are worthwhile or where to find rare tapes.

The flood of ink hasn’t necessarily put publishers in the black, but it may be spurring consumers to rent and buy more videos.

Prompted by its success last year, Blockbuster Video has released a second edition of “The Greatest Movies Of All Time” ($3.95). Available only in Blockbuster stores, the book sold out its 600,000 copies last year, according to Brian Woods, v.p. of national marketing.

Older movies

Woods says most customers, overwhelmed by an average of 10,000 videos in a Blockbuster store, simply gravitate toward new releases. The book encourages them to rent older movies.

If the success continues, books on lesser-known films or on family fare are possible, per Woods.

West Coast Video and National Video offer customers a free monthly called Spotlight On Video, which has a circulation of 200,000, according to editor Joan Graham. The 5-year-old magazine is partially ad-supported, but Graham says a National Video study showed it pays for itself increasing rentals.

On a smaller scale, the Kenosha, Wis.-based Video-Ink focuses on new releases. It features both original reviews and a collection of critics’ reactions.

The 35-page newsletter started out to expose casual renters to straight-to-video movies they might not otherwise know about, and provide serious collectors with extensive credits, cast histories and cross-references, says co-editor Don Hess.

Norman Scherer has transformed his publication, Pearls, which debuted last year, to encompass the consumer audience. Publication, featuring an inventory of rare and out-of-print vids, is due out in March and will be distributed to over 10,000 stores.

Scherer also plans to distribute Half-Shell, a retail-oriented publication listing rare tape brokers and inventory information.

Even HBO, a major video distributor, is cashing in on the trend with its own “HBO’s Guide To Movies On Videocassette And Cable TV” ($14.95) in bookstores.

While the guide lists each movie’s distributor, manager of corporate affairs La Mott Britto says there is no conflict of interest since “there are not enough HBO videos to really make a dent in this book.”

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