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What Does “Video” Mean Today?

   April 18th, 2012

Internet Killed the Video Store? signHere's a topic that I've heard come up multiple times recently in different contexts, and I'm curious if there is any kind of wider consensus on it. The question is, what does the word "video" mean to people?

We're redesigning our catalog, and in the process of coming up with format description, we had a discussion (and disagreement) on whether "video" means just VHS tapes, or if it refers to to DVDs and other formats as well (like "music" is a generic term for anything on CD, tape, etc). We're also redesigning our website, and in that context, we weren't sure if the word "video" means physical tapes/discs, or if people would presume it means online clips/episodes/tutorials/etc - or both.

So I thought I'd take a quick poll - please make a selection, but also leave a comment below on why, or if I've missed an option entirely.


[poll link]

And a question for another time: in light of this, does the "video" in "video game" make sense?




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13 Responses to “What Does “Video” Mean Today?”

  1. John Says:

    To me, designations such as VHS, DVD, Online, indicate the distribution media type, while Video refers to the content type.

  2. hk Says:

    What about the word “media” or “visual media”? I fear that that “video” will be viewed as the word “cyber” is now viewed…antiquated and outdated!

  3. Ben Says:

    I voted for the second option because it refers to physical formats. I see from the poll results that the voters are overwhelmingly going for the more technically accurate definition: that material or content that is presented in a (probably recorded) visual manner qualifies as “video”. And verbally, that works: we watch “a video” on YouTube, but if a patron asks for “a video”, s/he is likely asking for a physical thing as opposed to virtual access.

  4. Benjamin Kalish Says:

    I use video in the broadest sense. I see it as analogous to audio, although admittedly we don’t listen to “an audio” or borrow “an audio” from the library.

    That said, I encounter many library patrons who understand video to mean only VHS tapes.

  5. Gem Says:

    To me, it means any format of moving picture. However, a library associate I talked to, who I think is just a couple years older than me (I’m 33) says it means VHS to her. She wondered if the meaning changed depending on your generation. I wonder what teens consider video.

  6. Mike Shell Says:

    The term “video” seems to be used now as a generic term for moving visual recording in any format.

    BTW, it’s amusing, yet maybe makes sense, that LC Subject Headings still use “motion picture,” even though that phrase has dropped out of common usage.

  7. AH Says:

    If I’m referring to a physical copy of a movie, I’d generally call it a “film” (even though that refers to a format so obsolete as to be a generic term) or movie, as “video” would make me think of VHS (I’m 25). However, if it’s digital and not a movie (YouTube, etc.), it’s still a video.

    Much the way that for music, I’d buy an album (which also refers to an obsolete/generic format) rather than say I got the new cd or tape.

  8. Brian Herzog Says:

    I’m always curious about the evolution of language, which I think is why I am so interested in this question. I do help many patrons who mean VHS when they say video, but many of those patrons also think that “VHS tapes” and “VCR tapes” are different things. At the same time, I have patrons asking for books on tape, but use that as a generic term like “audiobooks,” because they really want a CD.

    I guess there are lots of examples of this – people still “dial” their phones, or “tape” a show with their DVR. We’re just trying to keep up with meanings, so our tools are clear And people can find things where the expect them.

  9. The Librarian With No Name Says:

    I think “video game” still works in a broad sense, given what appears to be the majority definition of “video.” It defines the game by its reliance on some sort of electronic digital display, as distinct from board games, card games, etc.

    This usage has not really changed over the history of video games, as I can’t think of many modern electronic games that don’t rely on display technology that would fit comfortably under the hardware definition of “video.” LCD handhelds, possibly, but those are sort of the outlying ghetto of electronic entertainment.

    In fact, the VHS definition of “video” never really applied to video games, since the number of VCR-based video games is vanishingly small, and never very popular. Most VCR-based games were actually board or card games at heart, and hardly ever referred to as “video games.” The Action Max lightgun console did require a VCR to play its games, but it was something of a freak even in its day.

  10. Kaia Says:

    I think video is used to refer to any format of moving picture, whether it be YouTube, VHS, or DVD, although it does still maintain subtle connotations of VHS tapes.

    Because it does seem like different people have different understandings of the word, it’s a good practice to ask what format customers are talking about when they say video. Do they want funny cat videos on YouTube? Are they wondering if we still carry VHS tapes? (The answer is no, sorry.) Do they want to know whether a DVD copy of their movie is in? Always good to ask!

  11. Elizabeth Says:

    The term “video” to me personally connotes VHS. I’ve found that patrons use it both in that sense and to mean DVD. My library uses “video recordings” as a material type to encompass VHS’s and DVDs.

  12. Mark Says:

    I think of it and use the term as “any format of moving picture”. However, I’ve noticed that my kids (Ages 4 to 12) often correct me saying, “That’s not a video, Dad. That’s a DVD”. They think of video to mean VHS. Perhaps I’ve changed my view over time, whereas I used to conceive of “video” as being short for a “video tape”.

  13. Swiss Army Librarian » Reference Question of the Week – 7/1/12 :: Brian Herzog Says:

    [...] know it's kind of just semantics, but people using the term video bothers me (and not just because it's ambiguous). But even moreso when people talk about "renting" things from a library. I think they know what [...]