December 14, 2010
"There Is a Special Place in Hell" for Legal Vendor Price Gouging: What's Your Favorite Example?
Recently a commentator to this LLB post wrote "There is a special place in hell for charging that much money." He was referring to West's $800 charge for three volumes of the ALR Later Case Service for ALR 2d. "There is no way on earth that those three volumes should cost $800 because they are just a compilation of cases!," he added.
In a recent law-lib message, Scott Burgh, Chief Law Librarian, City of Chicago Department of Law Library, brought up the case of West's almost annual re-issuance of CJS Internal Revenue bound volumes, stating that West has reissued bound volumes every year at least back to 1996 when it was two volumes for $112.75, skipping only 2001 and 2003. Burgh observed '"[w]ithout realizing this gouge, we accepted [the CJS Internal Revenue] three new volumes [published in] February 2010 at a cost of $244 each, to a total of $732. If we had caught it at the time of seeing less than 25 pages of new content, we may have considered differently."
About West's practice of reissuing bound CJS Internal Revenue volumes instead of pocket-parts, Burgh cites to Section 2.3(d) of AALL Guide to Fair Business Practices for Legal Publisher, which states:
PRACTICES TO AVOID: A product that is created solely by extracting material from existing publications is billed as a new product.
In that context, I would add, what about West spinning off AMJUR Federal Taxation volumes from the AMJUR standing order and requiring a separate standing order for them? "Thanks but no thanks" was my response (if memory serves the new standing order was going to be in the $1,000 vicinity just for AMJUR Federal Taxation). Anyone see a $1K reduction in its costs for AMJUR sans Fed Tax? There is also a special place in hell for spinning out material from a "comprehensive" legal encyclopedia that apparently includes everything but federal taxation! What next, AMJUR without Contacts? Ah well, I've killed CJS and AMJUR in print anyway.
To be fair so this isn't just a beat-up on the folks in the land of 10,000 invoices post, I'll add, for example, that I see absolutely no justification for LexisNexis charging about $480 for its three volume, three-times per year undated, loose-leat set of Ohio Jury Instructions which are written by a committee of the Ohio Judicial Conference. Does it really cost this much to push supplied content through the print shop? Ah, my bad, you also get a CD. (NB non-Buckeye State researchers: Through Casemaker, OSBA members can access the Ohio Judicial Conference's jury instructions as well as additional instructions prepared by the OSBA Jury Instructions Committee.)
Got a Favorite Example of Price Gouging? If you have a favorite example of legal vendor price gouging, feel free to post it as a comment to this post. More importantly, do continue publishing all of them on the law-lib list. Notify CRIV too but not just CRIV. Our vendors routinely monitor AALL lists so this is one very good way to communicate with them. At least you won't have to go through an AALL gatekeeper. What the heck, it's the holiday season -- it's a time for gift-giving.
One of the benefits of vendor reps being AALL members is being able to monitor AALL lists. I doubt they will respond to the publicity of AALL list messages but, perhaps in a case or two, one of them may contact you. And if they don't, well, at least the postings will produce an archives of questionable publishing practices for all to read. [JH]
There are scores of examples the Used Textbook Association has collected of publisher practices. College stores bear the brunt of the bad rap as the messengers of high book prices and new editions cranked out every 18 months. That practice led to the HEOA. http://www.usedtextbookassociation.org/CaseStudies.aspx is the location of the case studies.
Posted by: Book Buyer | Jan 8, 2011 8:15:56 PM
Most egregious example of price gouging: Law school.
Posted by: Dave | Jan 6, 2011 6:02:13 AM
(Am in my last year of law school.)
I've been thinking a lot about the yearly published collections of statutes such as "Selected Intellectual Property and Unfair Competition, Statutes, Regulations & Treaties, 2008 Edition" which I own. An IP professor me told me, when she was practicing, she'd buy a new one every year. I've been using it this semester: it's easier than reading online ... and I haven't *heard* about any major changes to federal IP laws.
So I've been resarching the feasibility of making a web app that'd save people money: You'd go to the web site, type in the ISBN or title of a statutory compilation, and the site would tell you if anything in the book has been revised since it was published. A person could use this to decide whether it's really necessary to go buy a new edition.
The web app would pull its data from the GPO site (for currency information) and the Amazon API (for ISBN lookup). The app could even remember what books a visitor owns and proactively notify them when a volume becomes outdated.
Posted by: Robb Shecter | Dec 21, 2010 4:01:06 PM
My favorite example: BNA's refusal to provide access to the content of a given journal to the attorneys serving on its editorial board. Not a single user license, not a single print copy will they supply to an attorney providing this service to them. The attorney's firm is forced to buy a minimum of 5 user licenses, and as we know with BNA the cost is somewhere upwards of $2,500. Now that's a racket.
Posted by: Andrea Rasmussen | Dec 14, 2010 6:16:31 AM