May 11, 2011
The World of Actionable Actions, Part II: Addressing Vendor Inefficiencies Because Format and Quality Matters
I mentioned in January 2011 that I liked, in principle, what ALM was doing in the Company's systematic transformation from a traditional print-based publisher to a "digital-first" media and information provider in because I thought Law Journal Press Online was an interesting twist on law eBooks. It certainly is more innovative than current law eBook offerings from our major vendors. Since then, however, invoice-paying law librarians have spent a fair amount of time addessing format options for LJP titles. By fair amount I mean way too much time being spent because of LJP's inefficiencies.
Law library institutional buyers have been grappling with LJP's original marketing of their once print-only titles because the Company was initally providing only two options at renewal time for their updated treatises: (1) online only or (2) online and print only. The Company did respond to CRIV chair Rob Myers' communications that it would address and accomodate law librarians wanting print-only titles. At least LJP didn't respond to Myers like TR Legal did with its copyrighted response to format switcheroos:
We are comfortable that we capture enough customer, author, and editor feedback before any title undergoes a format change and are confident that this feedback effectively reflects customer preferences.
By way of LJP's response, Rob provided contact information for one LJP staffer tasked with this via AALL listservs. Doesn't help non-institutional LJP consumers dealing with this but that's SOP for AALL. Poor soul. The phone must have been ringing constantly from calls by invoice-paying law librarians; I tried several times and gave up after always getting a busy signal. I imagine this staffer's email in-box was filled to the max but I decided not to go that route. In the world of actionable actions, I started cancelling LJP titles as their individual renewal invoices appeared in my in-box. Appears than many others also did the same because I got a call from a LJP representative soon after my cancellations were communicated to the Company. I'm thinking LJP may not have expected such a large number of negative reactions (read substantial numbers of institutional buyer cancellations) and decided to addess this by staffing up in response to that.
I have found LJP reps to be very helpful. After requesting and not receiving a list of current LJP subs to see if we and the Company were "on the same page" from "someone" at LJP customer services, I received a phone call and email for someone who was not 1-800-Nameless. Don't know if he is my personal account rep now or is one of many LJP customer service reps assigned to address law librarian issues but he has become my "go-to" during this transformation. He provided a list of my current subs and recent cancelations and is forwarding my decisions to the the invoice-generating folks. Works for me because one title I was really going to regret cancelling if I had to renew for print-online is the best title on the subject, namely Hindert, Dehner & Hindert's Structured Settlements and Periodic Payment Judgments. I would have killed that title and other LJP title if my options excluded print-only because those other format alternatives just won't work in my little county law library. Quality matters.
Quality of Editorial Content and Format Options Matter Now. Killing off some LJP titles would have been regrettable but neccessary. In the Shed West Era for print, editorial quality really matters now. I will pay for that if I can buy the publications in the format I want. In addition to some LJP titles which provide damn good editional quality I can depend on (at least for now) some other publishers still driven by quality such as BNA, WK's Apsen and CCH, and PLI. However, I can't and probably will never be able to justify LJP titles as online-only or online-print combinations at our little county law library. Format matters.
But in the "New Normal," law librarians are taking a more closer look at titles offered by the likes of LJP because the Company have a long-established reputation for editional quality, something some of our major vendors no longer have. I believe we will pay for that quality by subsituting or relying solely on their titles. I certainly have. We cancelled some WEXIS print titles in this Shed West Era because of this. We focus on cost-savings but we also look for the "best bang for our buck." We elevate such titles to pride-of-place status of "best available" in editorial quality in the world of actionable actions. We use some of the cost savings generating from cancelling titles produced by "traditional" legal publishers who have neglected to maintain content quality standards by acquiring titles from other publishers who have a track record of consistently meeting editorial quality standards because they do not treat content as a commodity.
Ways and Means for LJP Titles. For recent renewal cancellations, the Company is offering a 20% discount off invoiced renewal costs if you want print-only and a 15% disount off of current renewal costs for live subscriptions if you only want print-only distibution. I, for one, reactivied one subscription as print-only at the 20% discount for a title I killed after having received its renewal invoice for the print-online combo. I insisted that the reactivation was continguent of receiving a new base volume at no additional cost because it had already been recycled and the Company compiled. I also listed which titles I would continue to take at the print-only 15% discount and which titles I still intended to cancel.
Most invoice-paying law librarians do not like how this has to be accomplished because it is so damn time-consuming. Apparently some, if not most but not all institutional buyers must apply for the discounting on a invoice-by-invoice basis where one receives a renewal invoice for the print-online combo because renewals are triggered on a title-by-title basis when each individual title comes up for renewal.
The procedue is you get the renewal notice for the print-online title and then you have to email it back to get an adjusted invoice for the discounted print-only cost. That certainly can be very time-consuming for subscribers of a lot of the LJP catalog of titles. Our little county law library executed "Shed West Era" print cancellations for LPJ titles even before LJP's implementation of ALM's transformation from a traditional print-based publisher to a "digital first provider. So the workload isn't great but I certainly understand the law library community's very justifiable complaints. Efficiency matters.
Each execution has to be based on an making an affirmation decision title by title as indicated above. There could be a much more time-saving method for buyers who subscribe to many more LJP titles than our little county law library does. I think this has more to do with a smaller vendor making adjustments in the context of a recently implemented invoice generating system that was not brought online with an eye toward responding to buyers who would cancel if they could not acquire titles in the format they deemed best for their collection.
Due note, a library's LJP customer account number has also changed but the customer service reps can cross reference old to new account numbers. Also note, even after one receives the discounted invoice print-only, the invoice will not explicitly state that the renewal is for print-only. I'm not particularly concerned about this right now as long as the invoice pricing reflects the discount. However, I have yet to receive one of the adjusted invoices and I've sent backy three invoices for print-only pricing already.
Will the current print-only discounting become institutionalized at LJP for 2012 renewals and thereafter? I have no idea. However, LJP ran a quickie two day sale for acquiring new titles last week but the sale discount was not offered for acquiring print-only. It appears to have been based on subscribing to new titles by way of pint-online or online only format options. That's not a particular good signal. Guess we will just have to wait and see.
Shifting Vendor Generated Inefficiences Back to the Publisher. The inefficiences LJP has generated is just an illustration of the world of actionable actions in the context of institutional buyers needing to start taking "vendor sourcing" actions. Cancellations prompted LJP to staff-up but the procedure the publisher created to respond to subscribers wanting print-only titles because format matters is incredibly inefficent.
DLA Piper's Jean O'Grady defines vendor sourcing as "a process by which we shift the cost of vendor generated inefficiencies or the inefficient processes themselves, back to the publishers."
Let's face it; we have for too long made our administrative processes subservient to the idiosyncrasies of individual publishers.
See O'Grady's Dewey B Strategic post, "Vendor Sourcing" : Thinking the unthinkable as a strategic alternative to outsourcing for much more.
Endnote. For the first post in this series, see The World of Actionable Actions: Institutional Buyers, Individual Consumers and the Legal Publishing Industry. [JH]
As a result of the invoicing nightmare created by LJP, I decided to cancel all of our LJP titles. After a close look at them, I realized there wasn't anything we couldn't live without. It wasn't worth our time to deal with the invoices on a title-by-title basis. No regrets.
Posted by: Marie Newman | May 12, 2011 6:39:48 AM