September 16, 2010
Are You Feeling Like the Pretty Boy in a Maximum Security Prison? On the mythos of "list price," sale price, and library continuation spend for TR Legal print
|AALL 2009 Price Index for Legal Publications|
|In the "From the Desk of" August 2010 message about the publication of the 2009 Price Index, our association's president glossed over the fiasco that was data compilation for this latest "effort."|
Quoting from the members-only page:
The Price Index for Legal Publications Committee works with AALL headquarters staff to gather and measure the annual subscription pricing data that gets recorded in the Price Index for Legal Publications. A price index measures the changes in average prices of specific sets of goods against a base price.
Thomson Reuters agreed to supply prices for the 2009 Price Index. They supplied list prices for new sets for the years 2005 -2009. Historically, prices within the Price Index have been for supplementation. After Thomson Reuters submitted new set prices, the Chair looked more closely at other publishers' prices within the Price Index. It appears that other publishers have also supplied new set pricing between the years 2005 and 2008. To clarify what is the proper pricing for publishers to supply, the 2010-11 Committee is drafting a set of written pricing standards. These standards will be sent to publishers in advance of their agreement to participate in the Price Index. The written standards will articulate the specific type of price that must be provided for each material type in the index.
The 2009 index now shows the percentage of change from 2005 to 2009. In calculating this overall percentage of increase, the Thomson Reuters prices were excluded. There are several reasons why: 1) the Thomson Reuters data has been identified as new set data and the majority of past data in the index has been for supplementation; 2) the addition of the Thomson Reuters titles would necessitate that the base be reset this year; and 3) as new standards are developed by the 2010-11 Committee, the base will have to be reset for the 2010 index. Weighing these factors, it was decided to forgo resetting the base in 2009 and to keep the Thomson Reuters data separate for the 2009 index. The base will be reset in 2010 after the new standards are adopted and all publishers who participate have been required to submit the same type of data for each material type. Users will be able to refer to the 2005-2009 Thomson Reuters data on the Price Index Query page. On the query page, users can also access data from all publishers for the time period 1998-2004.
Clarification Needed? Some members of the Price Index Committee responsible for producing the 2009 Price Index did not even know what AALL asked vendors to supply in terms of pricing information! OMG, I'm about to defend TR Legal ... wait for it ... according to a very reputable company source, AALL did not ask for print continuation pricing for this year's Price Index!
And we are letting our association's leadership control and define the vendor-buyer relationship! What the... . Oh yes, the August message from "the desk of" AALL President Joyce Manna Janto also included the following announcement:
A search committee has been formed to select AALL's next vendor liaison. The vendor liaison will serve as AALL's liaison for fostering knowledge and information sharing between the law library community and legal information vendors. This individual will also work to develop programs or initiatives for sharing expertise and creating a dialogue about library-vendor issues and to communicate about legal information policy issues from the law librarian perspective.
Time for a Conference Table in AALL Leadership. Is it just me or is it time to replace "the desk" with a conference table where the elected heads of the academic, private and public sectors' SIS groups sit, each serving as AALL vice-presidents, jointly deciding what our so-called association of law library institutional buyers do? We are well beyond "enough is enough" in our institutionalized AALL "mythos."
NB: This notion is actually something our vendors who just happen to be our association's advertisers can relate to and I think our vendors may actually welcome such structural changes as a step in the right direction because that's exactly how they view the market. How long will it be before an association that is by definition based on instiutional membership, not individual law librarian membership, will realize we are all conducting business in market sectors that are uniquely different and are in no small part defined by purchasing power and user populations? Tweaking the current structure of AALL will not be enough.
As for the status quo, AALL is being gamed because our major vendors see the opportunity to do so. Can't blame them -- ya think TR Legal didn't know that historically the Price Index measured supplementation costs? But if not asked to provide, why do so. And the membership is allowing this to happen... .
Perhaps the maximum security prison is actually located in Chicago. Say a prayer tonight that Ken Svengalis is still going strong when he reaches the ripe old age of 100.
Anyone who is monitoring annual upkeep spend for print (and who isn't in the Shed West Era) knows that both TR Legal and MB's annual costs for major (and even sometimes not so major) secondary source titles is running in the 70-75% range of buying new at list price. Has been for years if you have been paying attention to Ken Svengalis. However, both companies have been mounting regular as in monthly, weekly, even just 3-day long marketing campaigns for over a year now by offering 20-25-30-40-50% off list price for cumulatively speaking a not insignificant portion of their print catalogs of major (and sometimes not so major) works.
List price, Does That Matter? What's our new benchmark, the lowest sale price offered during the past 12 months? Note to self, don't waste paper printing out the AALL 2009 Price Index for Legal Publications. See sidebar, right.
Oftentimes TR Legal Marketing's sale pricing for buying new for titles we have on standing kowtow order makes me think our little county law library is the pretty boy in a maximum security prison located in Minnesota. Displayed below is a random sample of TR Legal Marketing's sale pricing for titles on Sept. 10, 2010 that we have on standing order, along with our 2010 proforma pricing for them. Of course, everyone knows, TR Legal's proforma pricing is not what institutional buyers actually pay. It's just an "estimate." I, for one, can't remember the last time the Company's proforma pricing was higher than actual costs. But what the heck, "shipping is free."
If curious, you know how to look up today's pricing for each title. Can you say, spin the wheel of fortune? I'm alluding to the original meaning of the Greek goddess, Nemesis.
Who knows what today's TR Legal sale pricing is but do note the upkeep schedule for each advertised title before you make a buy-not buy decision because the buy decision may trigger nightmarish print continuation charges. Yes, I am now alluding to Epiales, the daimon in Greek mythology who assaults sleepers, because TR Legal Marketing's for print has reached mythical proportions in the Company's attempt to return to Mount Olympus. Professionally, I think TR Legal's tactics indicate that the Company already knows it is residing in Tartarus.
Note to Self: Quit with the allusions already! Just because you studied the association between Classical Greek mythos and its intellectual backdrop for pre-Socratic philosphers like Heraclitus and remember that Aristotle's Poetics defined mythos as the first element of tragedy, doesn't mean LLB readers give a damn.
"The path up and down are one and the same." -- Heraclitus
Of course everyone know what happened to Sisyphus who promoted commerce, but was avaricious and deceitful, and also what his punishment was for violating the laws of hospitality by killing travelers and guests, right? Our major legal vendors, particularly TR Legal by its arrogance, have violated the economic laws of law library hospitality. Our user population have a short-term memory. They will not remember nor care about what once was, once we have introduced them to what now is. Damn it! Now an allusion to Heidegger! Sorry, I can recall things from 40 years ago but have no clue what I did four hours ago. Time to move on... .
The New World of WEXIS Print Acquisitions for Secondary Print Titles. Of course these marketing campaigns are an attempt to prop up print revenue in response to the Shed West Era. If interested in acquiring a new MB print title on sale, you can oftentimes obtain free upkeep. For example, during this summer's MB treatise promo you could order any new title that normally costs $800 or more for a 50% discount. I was a buyer of MB's 12-volume loose-leaf set, Environmental Law Practice Guide: State and Federal Law Guidance. Instead of paying list price of $1,991, we paid $995.50 (plus shipping and handling) for the set plus got 12 months of upkeep.
Free upkeep from TR Legal? Well, I don't know about real large sets because our library is more likely to cancel them, than acquire major new titles from the Company. But for the sales titles I have been looking at, free upkeep is not usually the case. Anyone want to map when TR Legal puts a title on sale and when that title's next upkeep will be sent and billed to the new subscriber?
TR Legal Marketing's Sales Pricing Merry-Go-Round. While I have shed West print in our little county law library to the tune of of 50% of last year's spend with another 25% to be cut from our library's adjusted spend basis this year, I am not opposed to buying new West titles in principle. Two cases in point from TR Legal Marketing's sales pricing merry-go-round.
We shed all West bankruptcy subs we could last year including all the practice-oriented titles West gobbled up over the years because they weren't being used (editorial quality?), and all the titles we dumped were more costly to maintain than the "other guy." $7,000-plus savings. But, by we could, I mean except for two comprehensive, not needed, not used, but expensive even at 50% off SUB pricing major treatise sets that will be eliminated once they are off our WestPrint lock-in with Westlaw at the end of this year. Hey, I tried this time last year but got the pro forma "no, but we can renegotiate your Westlaw contract" response. Thanks, but no thanks. But I digress... .
I did acquire the two volume "loose-leaf" Bankruptcy Practice Handbook 2d at 20% off (if memory serves, it certainly wasn't bought at list and might have been at 25% or 30% off list) a couple of months ago but only after the June upkeep date. Hey, you have to pay attention to these things! List price is $527, current sale price, by which I mean, last week is $447.95. That would be 15% off list. I am worried that this title might get a TR Legal format switcheroo because it is the kind of publication the Company may want to pitch for purpose of storing on an attorney credenza.
I purchased Immigration Pleading and Practice Manual on Sept. 9th. At that moment in TR Legal Marketing time the title had a sales price of $114.60. List price was $191. After doing the math, this acquisition with upkeep costs due in a couple of months (most likely November or December) factored in will equal the list price. Such a deal for 40% off list price! But in the course of the next year, I'll know if our little county law library's patrons will use it. If not, it will be history. Due note that on the next day, that would be Sept 10th, the sale price for this title was $162.35, or 15% off list but then there's that little pesky update cost thing. Wouldn't have been a buyer at that price.
In almost all cases I just take a pass on TR Legal Marketing's sales pricing merry-go-round but this is the new world of print acquisitions work. So after I cancel some more West SUBs at the end of this year (can you guess which ones listed below?), I wonder what their sales pricing will be a year or two from now. My hunch is if you asked the Company, the response would be, "no, no, this is temporary." And perhaps it is. However, our little county law library's Shed West cancellations are not based on a gamble that this new regime of sales is permanent; it's based on library economics. TR Legal is pricing itself out of the print continuation market. For multi-volume treatises, MB titles are the better value and that Company's historical annual price increases for subs are substantially less. [JH]
|Sale Price on September 10, 2010||TR Legal's 2010 Proforma Upkeep Estimate Costs for SUBs|
||CJS at $6,570 and that doesn't include the CJS TOC at $654.50|
End Note. So what do you do with all the print you have cancelled in this epic Shed West era? Why not turn some of the volumes into a public services desk! Hat tip to LLB co-editor Mark Giangrande for this one. More images here.
Thanks for the detailed post. But did the title really need a reference to prison rape?
Posted by: Tom Hemstock | Sep 16, 2010 5:54:22 AM