May 27, 2010
TR Legal's Unsolicited Shipments are "Viewed Favorably by Most Subscribers" If "Most" is Defined as 3.7 Percent: Findings of LLB Poll
In the land of 10,000 invoices, unsolicited shipments "are viewed favorably by most subscribers" according to Anne Ellis, TR Legal Senior Director of Librarian (Marketing) Relations. That's absolutely true if "most" is numerically defined as 3.7% which is the finding from last week's LLB poll on the issue. What sort of "new math" is this? It's TR Legal Marketing math, not law librarian math, which would define "most" (almost all really) as the 93.2% who do not view these shipments favorably.
I doubt TR Legal czars are so cocooned from the law library community plus their own sales force and customer service reps that they find this "OMG, how could we let this happen" shocking. The Company simply prefers to ignore our association's AALL Guide to Fair Business Practices for Legal Publishers and has its corporate policy spokesperson make statements like this one, giving TR Legal's Librarian Relations program ever-increasing credibility issues for working with the law library community. Let's call it "most" credible as defined by TR Legal math because Ellis did look into the empty shipping boxes matter a couple of months ago (bad glue).
Columbia House Legal Book Club. Does TR Legal's new opt-out by postcard system bring the Company into compliance with Section 3.1 of the Guide which states "Publishers should obtain the customer's consent prior to making a shipment or initiating a transaction, unless such shipment is part of a standing order or subscription to which the customer has previously consented." I, for one, don't think so. 80% of survey respondents strongly agree and another 16.4% agree with the statement that "Instead of opt-out by returning a postcard, product literature for a new title without having to take action to not receive the new title is what TR Legal should do." That's 96.4% who simply want new product literature without any strings attached, without involuntarily becoming members of the "Columbia House Legal Book Club" (see comment to survey post). It's fair to say if law librarians want to buy a new TR Legal title, they (1) know how to order it and (2) want to choose when they will order it. (Personally, I would continue by saying that I also want my account rep to get a sales commission when I order a new title.)
Who Decides What's Important to Law Library Collections? Apparently, TR Legal thinks its new titles are so important to our collections, they transcend fair business practices and customer preferences on how to conduct business. "To be clear," writes Ellis, "companion products contain content that supplements our customers’ subscriptions and are deemed important to the collection." To be clear Anne, law librarians, not TR Legal, will decide what is important to our collections, print and online. No collection development policy I have ever read gives your company any input in this matter. TR Legal's "Columbia House Legal Book Club" approach to unsolicited shipments is simply unacceptable. It's time to respond to CRIV's cease and desist request with an unequivocal "yes."
Changing "No" to "Yes." Remember the Ellis statement on why TR Legal refused to participate in AALL's Price Index for Legal Publications last August? It came up in the context of TR Legal being banned from sponsoring our annual meeting in 2008 and 2009. TR Legal changed that policy within a couple of months and hopefully Ellis had something to do with getting it changed. Perhaps we'll see a big "No Longer the Columbia House Legal Book Club" banner in the Exhibit Hall in July. If not, CRIV should consider recommending banning the Company from sponsoring annual meetings again. My hunch is unsolicited shipments aren't the only complaints law librarians have. Unsolicited "pay trial" delivery of WLN to the desktops of researchers comes immediately to mind.
Thanks again Rob Myers, CRIV vice-chair and incoming chair of the Committee, for trying. Thanks LLB readers for participating in this utterly unscientific LLB poll. Results displayed below. [JH]