For the past few years I’ve spent a lot of time building an impressive digital photography collection. At present my collection stands at 47,893 images. While most of these photos are of my family or digital photographs that I’ve taken as part of my photoblogging hobby, I’m also something of a packrat when it comes to collecting images off of the internet. You know the trick: right click, save as.
At present I’ve been able to amass a collection of about 5,000 high quality, mostly high res, images. These images are mainly fine art images organized by artist, images I’ve collected from various photoblogger sites and interesting professional photographs. There are many different themes in my collection: classical art, modern art, celebrities, photobloggers by name, rock and roll, cities, space, architecture, wine, politics, nature, etc. The largest portion of my collection centers around fine art though. Most of the images were collected through various image searches I’ve done on Google, Ask Jeeves and Yahoo!.
These images look amazing when run through Microsoft’s Media Center Edition software on my 43″ HDTV plasma in my living room. Ever since I read about Bill Gate’s early collection of digital fine art at his famous castle of a home I’ve been interested in building my own gallery for view in my home.
Recently I was tipped off by Michael Creasy, one of the Media Center developers, that I might want to explore this thing called “Gallery Player” that is part of Microsoft’s new online offerings. As Gallery Player promised to offer additional images for consideration I thought I’d figure out how it worked this weekend.
Gallery Player is an online service in the “Online Spotlight” area of Media Center that lets you either rent or purchase high resolution, high quality images for your Media Center experience.
The company running the collection is Beon Media and is made up of ex executives from Microsoft, Corbis and Amazon.com, among others.
Set up of “Gallery Player” was pretty easy. I just went to the Online Spotlight area of Media Center, provided them my email address and downloaded and installed some software on my machine. I was given an immediate 7 day free trial to their online collection.
I have to say that there are a few things I like about this service.
First, just that it exists plain and simple. I am not aware of any other company that is selling end users fine art images and although I imagine we will see much more of this in the future, it’s nice to have a company starting it up today.
Second, the images that they offer are very high quality and high res and look about as perfect as they can on my 43″ plasma.
Third, with the fine art prints they have an optional feature that allows for information on the painting to fade in and out of view giving you details such as the title, artist, year painted and a brief commentary on the work.
All of this is really good and represents a good start for an offering in fine digital art.
Now the question comes, “will I use this service?” and the answer, unfortunately is no. There are several reasons why.
First, the collection is amazingly sparse. At present the service offers 13 different collections each with about 15 or so images. In the area of fine art, my strongest interest, they only had two sections, “fine art” and “decorative art” with about 15 images each. Fifteen images is a pretty small collection — tiny, really.
Second, it’s expensive. Although they offer a rental type subscription to their service I’m not really interested in this. I’m only really interested in buying the images and at $19.99 for 15 images this is pricy.
Third, I’m not really sure that if I buy the images that I really will own high res .jpgs of the files. I think that by “owning” them I’m just allowed permanent access to the section of their site that houses them. If I buy an art book and the company that printed it goes out of business I still have my art book. If I buy these images and “Gallery Player” goes out of business (as many tech companies do these days) I think I’m out of luck. I might be wrong on this though and if I am someone from the company feel free to comment.
So what should the “Gallery Player” thing look like. Well it should be priced more like an art book. Recently I purchased The American Art Book which has about 500 images in it for about $29.00. I’ve scanned a bunch of the art and it looks great in my own permanent collection on my plasma by the way. Especially given that the cost to acquire all of the public domain works in Gallery Art’s collection is nil, they should provide better value.
Value can also be added by putting various artist collections together. These could either be complete works or certain shows or compilations based on style or period. As a collector, for instance, I’d be much more excited knowing that I could buy say, the complete works of Van Gogh or even more excited to buy the complete works of many modern artists, Richard Estes for example. With the public domain stuff this would be as easy as buying the complete works book and scanning it into high res images. I can’t imagine that any copyright violation would be taking place with these old paintings.
Also, when you purchase the art they should allow you the ability to download it to your computer rather than use their service. I’m sure that the company is concerned that by doing this that it opens the image to being published on the internet or via peer to peer for free and that with public domain images this is even easier, but if I’m going to buy something I need to own it. I need the file to reside on my hard drive, in my collection, organized how I want it.
If you guys want another idea that might work from a business model standpoint and still protect your images, I’d consider doing this.
1. Sell subscriptions to your service for $19.99 a month.
2. Each month offer the complete works of three public domain classical artists and one show by a copyrighted modern artist.
3. Allow any subscriber full access to your collection at any time.
This would keep someone subscribed in order to continue getting the new images and would provide value to the art collector. If your older images ended up on the internet or on peer to peer, so be it. The value of your service would be the continual new offerings. Now that I’d pay for.