NARA makes films available on Amazon

The National Archives and Records Administration has reached a nonexclusive agreement with CustomFlix Labs to make thousands of historic films available for sale on Amazon.com, the agency announced July 30.

CustomFlix, a subsidiary of Amazon, will begin by making NARA’s 1929-1967 collection of Universal Newsreels available for purchase as DVDs on the Amazon Web site for $19.99 each. The films will still be available for free viewing or copying at the agency’s research room. The company will recoup the costs associated with the digitization and production process, and NARA will collect a royalty.

But the biggest advantage for the agency is not monetary, said Susan Cooper, a NARA spokeswoman. The deal will give people nationwide -- not just those who can travel to NARA facilities -- access to the films and provide the agency with digitized preservation and reference copies, she said.

NARA holds original and preservation copies of the films, which are used for making the reference copies that are available to the public in the agency’s reading rooms. CustomFlix will not be allowed to remove any of the original copies from storage, Cooper said, adding that the agreement will let the agency increase the number of reference copies available for free at the agency’s reading room.

NARA holds more than 200,000 motion pictures, newsreels, documentaries and other films. DVDs will be produced on demand when they are ordered from Amazon, making a permanent inventory at NARA unnecessary.

CustomFlix said it can deliver DVDs to customers within 24 hours of a request.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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