November 9, 2009
LLB's Rate Your Legal Resources Vendors Survey: Findings on Reasonableness of Annual Price Increases for Products and Services Offered by BNA, LexisNexis, West and Wolters Kluwer
This was the "bang for your buck" section of LLB's Rate Your Legal Resources Vendors Survey. In view of the current state of library economics, the issue is important to put it mildly. By format for each vendor's products and services, survey takers were asked to rate the reasonableness of annual price increases for the resources offered to their patrons. Click on image left for survey demographics. Part one of the survey's findings was published at Customer Services Findings for BNA, LexisNexis, West and Wolters Kluwer
This component of the survey asked the following two questions:
1. In terms of the reasonableness of annual print continuation pricing for the value of the publications in your collection, how would you rate your vendors?
Well, it should come as no surprise to anyone in the law library community that almost 80% of the survey takers rated West's print continuation pricing relative to the value of West titles in their library collections as Very Poor or Poor. See Table 1. What is interesting is the degree of dissatisfaction with West's unreasonable print pricing practices. As indicated in Table 3 below, 43% rated West Print pricing Very Poor. That's more than four times the next highest response rate in the Very Poor category (10% for LexisNexis Print and Wolters Kluwer Print). If ever there was a vendor that has alienated its customers by its pricing practices, West is the one.
Average ratings ranged from 48.78% for BNA Print to 48.53% for LexisNexis Print and 40.46% for Wolters Kluwer Print. BNA Print received the highest Good or Excellent response rate at almost 23%.
2. In terms of the reasonableness of annual online service pricing for the value of the resources provided by your institution, how would you rate your vendors?
Almost 49% of the survey takers rated Westlaw's annual online pricing Very Poor or Poor followed fairly closely by Wolters Kluwer Online pricing which received a response rate of about 43% for Very Poor or Poor. See Table 2. Do note the candid comments survey takers wrote about Wolters Kluwer Online pricing in response to this question.
Once again, Westlaw received the highest Very Poor response rate at 18%. That is twice as high as LexisNexis Online's Very Poor response rate. See Table 3 below. However, I wouldn't recommend making too big a deal about this. Annual price increases for online services (but not initial licensing agreements) may be more market driven than print pricing with one catch, namely libraries locking themselves into multiple year Westlaw contracts for West's Print Package Plans -- a bad as in advantageous only to West idea if I ever saw one. Ever try to swap out even one print title you wanted to cancel for a similarly priced title during the term of your Westlaw contract? A 50% discount for a print title no longer needed in the collection is a 100% waste of money. No other vendor I have worked with has ever been this inflexible. Such is the "partnership" the law library community has with West.
For this question, LexisNexis Online was "best in class" with a 24% response rate for Good or Excellent. Do note in Table 3 below that LexisNexis Online also received the highest "Excellent" response rate at 10%. No other online vendor came even close to such high marks.
A Few Comments. I think the findings need no further commentary than to say that West gets "kudos" for maximizing its duopolist advantage. The Company's pricing practices are clearly viewed as being unreasonable for the value of West publications and services in the libraries of the survey takers.
However, law libraries share responsibility for allowing this situation to remain this way for so long. Law library collections and services are driven in no small part by institutional inertia. Once a product or service has been acquired, it tends to stay part of the mix of offerings to library patrons regardless of outrageous pricing practices. Legal publishers like West have "banked" on this institutional inertia but there comes a point in time when law libraries are forced by circumstances beyond their control to put an end to this madness. It's called economic necessity. Sure law libraries have dealt with budget cuts before but not to the extent they have been facing recently.
Welcome to the "Shed West" era. Why? I think it is fair to say law librarians view West as being hell-bent on squeezing every last penny out of library print budgets to preserve its 30-plus percent profit margin for as long as the Company can. Once there's nothing left, law librarians expect Westlaw's annual pricing rates to increase substantially. West has a very long road to travel to earn any lasting degree of goodwill with many if not most members of the law library community. How many law librarians actually believe goodwill is a component in the Company's strategic decision-making? The fact that our own professional association fails miserably to serve -- to even demonstrate having the will to serve -- as a strong and vocal consumer advocate for law libraries in this matter only exacerbates this situation.
If you view the world of competition as West vs. LexisNexis, LexisNexis certainly has an opportunity to escape the cutback axe for more of its products and services by moderating its annual price increases than West does. LexisNexis clearly provides better customer service than West which survey takers view as the worst provider of customer service in the legal publishing industry. See LLB's Customer Services Findings for BNA, LexisNexis, West and Wolters Kluwer. Moderate price increases plus quality customer service matters. Goodwill matters. If you do not trust your vendor, find one you can for comparable products and services.
When it come to goodwill and striving to maintain a constructive long-term relationship with the library community, LexisNexis and BNA appear to have the edge over Wolters Kluwer, damaged by the IntelliConnect fiasco and their online pricing practices, and West. In the words of one survey taker, "West's increases are unconscionable." To quote another, "There is no possible justification for the price increases from West." And a third, "West seems to be 'churning' - publishing updates & replacement volumes more frequently than necessary." Still every vendor has its distractors. For more thoughts on the situation, the comments provided by the survey takers are republished below.
By the way, I firmly believe there are plenty of West employees ready, willing and wanting to address the economic realities law libraries are currently facing in a reasonable manner. But they are restrained (think BDSM) by corporate executives utterly focused on maximizing short-term gains.
Survey Findings.Table 3 displays law librarian survey responses for each specific vendor. The range for each vendor's specific rating -- Very Poor, Poor, Average, Good, Excellent -- is a percentage of that vendor's total responses by product format. On this basis, comparisons of the four vendors' print and online products ratings can be made. Once again, I would like to thank everyone who participated in this survey. It's utterly unscientific but until AALL gets off its collective ass, at least it is something. [JH]
Comments to In terms of the reasonableness of annual print continuation pricing for the value of the publications in your collection, how would you rate your vendors?
West's increases are unconscionable. I wish we could dump every West product we own. I think lots of libraries are playing "chicken," waiting to see who will do mass cancellations first. Now that Harvard has cancelled so many West products I hope the rest of us will buck up and do the same.
There is no possible justification for the price increases from West.
West recently sent less than 50 pgs for $209.
AND it's time West stopped playing guessing games with its annual increases. They know we work on our budgets in the Fall, and they know how many new volumes of the digests, codes, etc., they're going to release in the next 12 months. But when I call my rep, he can't tell me solid #'s ... just ""budget for a 10-15% increase.
There's no way for us to be able to tell how much a West title may go up. It's just guesswork.
I need reliable numbers, even if they're not pretty. That way I can generate a reasonably-accurate budget. It really really sucks to get hit in the solar plexus with 25 volumes of FPD4 halfway through my budget cycle. That's a bitter pill to swallow when I *know* that West knew those books were coming months ahead of time (after all, it's their own editorial staff doing the work).
Years ago, when Matthew Bender's pricing was out of control, the librarians protested, and MB converted to an annual subscription model with modest price increases. C'mon West - get on board!
It's time for West to adopt annual subscription pricing for its large sets: the reporters, the digests, state codes, etc.
West was once excellent on pricing. The price jumps on all their print products have been immense this year and we have been forced to cancel many items we really wanted to keep. BNA has always been extremely expensive, so we only rarely purchase additional titles from BNA.
Seriously, do we need additional comments here? West's pricing model, and to a lesser extent Lexis is based on increasing the price of the product to the point where we are forced to cancel them. Perhaps that is the model they are seeking, if so please just come out and say print is dead.
They all charge too much, but West seems to be "churning" - publishing updates & replacement volumes more frequently than necessary. Wolters Kluwer charges waaaaay to much and their shipping fees seem unreasonable.
BNA supplementation (and the cost of new print treatises) is extremely expensive, and West is out of control.
I keep a spreadsheet of library invoices -- the managing partner's jaw dropped when I showed him the price increases over the last 3 years of each product.
No One seems to recognize "its the economy, stupid". Wolters--particularly their Aspen titles--continues to be especially greedy.
In an economic downturn, no one's prices should be raised 10% or more. Extremely abusive pricing this year was with Lexis Colorado Revised Statues. How does 90% increase sound to you? Needless to say, I'm steamed about it.
Reasonableness is a vague term. When continuation is more than getting a new publication, I would not call that reasonable.
Wolters Kluwer sends supplements on some former RIA products that cost at least as much as buying the title new.
None of them are reasonable.
Comments to the question: In terms of the reasonableness of annual online service pricing for the value of the resources provided by your institution, how would you rate your vendors?
Hard to be confidently objective on this one, and I don't know how to answer it. LexisNexis gets a "Good" from me because they didn't go up this year. Wolters Kluwer gets "Very Poor" because their proposed price increase is several hundred percent of what we were paying when it was CCH, and we're not sure the use justifies even keeping the service, much less paying that much more for it.
We are being taken to the cleaners over our CCH online libraries.
The Wolters Kluwer online offerings have the worst platform of the three vendors and the hardest one to search. Even the new CCH Intelliconnect is not as user friendly as the other three. The Wolters Kluwer pricing is too high for the value.
Wolters Kluwer is pulling a fast one with the CCH databases - charging more for the CCH (now IntelliConnect) while removing prime publications (like Loss on Securities) to create boutique databases that are very expensive.
If you had a "very, very very poor" I would choose that for Wolters Kluwer which is intent on gouging the legal community by acquisition. But I suppose they had West for a role model.
Our LOISLaw prices and CCH online prices were increased dramatically. CCH will not unbundle their subscriptions and charge a reasonable rate.
We have been unable to reach any agreement with Lexis for access to LexisNexis at a reasonable pay- for-what-you-use rate.
Discontiued L/N this year because billing was "all over the place" and the proposed renewal price was to high.
Only have Lexis, can't afford anything else.
As much as I appreciate the scope of resources on these products, the business model needs to change for Lexis and Westlaw to a "cafeteria plan" where we can select the content we need/want and not have to pay for the entire content set. It is all just too expensive, particularly with client resistance to cost recovery.
West and Lexis could charge us $100,000.00 a year for their product and in the end we would have to follow suit and pay it. Our students rely almost exclusively on these products so if I had to cut almost every print title I own to maintain these two services it would be in the best interest of the students to do so. What we are currently paying for WL/Lexis is so low, that is far below market value. The AMLAW 200 pay close to a million per year for these services. Most of our law schools have enough students and faculty to count as AMLAW 200 law firms.
BNA bases their online pricing on the number of law school students. It's a very bad model for law schools. None of the vendors understand the difference between a law school and law firms.
BNA actually told us they don't care what we paid last year. They priced their services and that's how they will charge. Sometimes that had caused a 10 or 15% increase in a renewal. UNREASONABLE. They actually said they won't cut a price if it will impact their profit.
BNA is very expensive. West is fine for Westlaw, but their other online products are over priced.
BNA actually told us they don't care what we paid last year. They priced their services and that's how they will charge. Sometimes that had caused a 10 or 15% increase in a renewal. UNREASONABLE. They actually said they won't cut a price if it will impact their profit margin.
I believe all print and online are entirely to costly what librarian wouldn't like to see prices go down instead of up.
All misjudge the market
In some cases certain vendors seem to be gauging customers with their online contract rates.
Material is excellent. Prices are too high.
Good job and great information here.
Posted by: Michael | Nov 9, 2009 5:32:30 AM