December 22, 2011
Dear Santa, Please Give AALL a Clue on How to Make Money
Santa, I think AALL needs a business plan to make money in publishing that is not based on ad revenues (which by and large isn't work all that well, anyway). How about reasonably priced AALL imprint p- and e-books on legal research for the general public, ditto for lawyers, ditto for law librarians, ditto for legal skills instruction, ditto for library school instructors. How about collection development and management of print and electronic resources for law librarians, ditto for legal administrators, ditto for library school profs. How about law-related info tech, services and web communications titles. Et cetera.
Now Santa, I am not talking about scholarly works, the usual fodder for LLJ or fluff pieces typically found in Spectrum or Best of LLJ or Spectrum compiliations. I'm talking about substantial monographic treatments (ok, good scholarship would be acceptable under this critera). Nor am I talking about authors being limited to AALL members or even librarians generally.
Santa, Please don't muddle the message so AALL officials can say, "we already doing that by way of our Publishing Initiatives Caucus." While that Caucus has some worthy objectives such as
Inspire and motivate law librarians to write articles for legal publications that are read by practicing attorneys, legal administrators, law professors, judges, and others in organizations that employ AALL members.
Santa, make damn sure that you are giving AALL a "clue" on how to engage in a profit-making venture to sell expertise-driven content to "practicing attorneys, legal administrators, law professors, judges," etc. If AALL officialdom gives you a non-profit association "but, but we really can't do that," remind them of what ALA does; they may need to be reminded that ALA exists. (BTW Santa, perhaps you can remind our professional association's leaders that the clue to resolving its Antitrustism policy issue is to look at ALA's policy instead of listening to their lawyer. Just about every damn attorney but our association knows not to reinvent the wheel from scratch but to check out what other similar organizations are doing. Oops, my bad. Perhaps our association's legal counsel doesn't know ALA exists. But I digress... .)
Why? Why not. Why give away to our major vendors, a few academic presses and the ABA this market niche. Why not try to make some income from publishing to fund AALL activities. That's what ALA does.
For example, ALA has recently announced that Neal-Schuman Publishers is becoming part of ALA Publishing. The Company will continue to offer print and electronic publications under its well-known imprint, but will join ALA Editions, TechSource, and Huron Street Press under the ALA publishing umbrella. Quoting from Neal-Schuman Publishers will sign an agreement to become part of ALA Publishing:
ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels told American Libraries that the acquisition of Neal-Schuman closely supports the Association’s strategic goals, which include making the highest-quality library service available to all library users and making high-quality, affordable continuing education (CE) available to libraries.
Does AALL even have a "publishing umbrella"? Well, yes a little one, about the size of one of those umbrellas in silly cocktails. Does this itty-bitty umbrella provide income to support AALL activities in any substantial way? Hell no.
“The Neal-Schuman imprint will enable the Association to expand its publishing program and bring in new revenue that will augment support for member programs and services,” said ALA Treasurer Jim Neal. “We need to find new financial sources to grow our capacity in legislative advocacy, public awareness, intellectual freedom, diversity, and the full range of ALA priorities.”
Isn't it about time for AALL to find way new financial sources to help fund AALL activities by way of publishing? One that isn't as legal vendor ad revenue tainted as, for example, Spectrum has been. I'm sure we can find a publisher-distributor for an AALL imprint. Perhaps Hein, perhaps Quid Pro Books, what the hell, perhaps under ALA's publishing umbrella under some profit sharing agreement. Perhaps AALL can even come up with a trend-setting law-related eBook lending model. [JH]