December 19, 2011
"Ready Access" Tools: p- and e-Credenza wars for the hearts and minds and pocketbooks of practitioners
Remember TR Senior Director, Librarian Relations, Anne Ellis' response to CRIV's Shaun Esposito about format switcheroos to pamphet editions of West print titles previously published in hardbound volumes with pocket parts or loose-leaf sets back in November? No, well after the "Dear Colleagues ... thank you"" mantra, TR Legal responded to Esposito's series of CRIV questions:
Is there a list of titles with a time table?
We're developing an updated list now, and will provide a schedule of product updates that will be converted from loose-leaf to softbound product in the first quarter of 2012.
How are customers notified?
Letters are sent to customers, prior to the shipment of the converted product, notifying them of the format change. Additionally, a reply card is included in every shipment so that we can continually monitor and collect customer feedback.
Isn't it more expensive to print a new volume (even paperback) than it would be to issue a pocket part or small supplement?
The decision to change a particular product's format from loose-leaf to softbound product is largely cost-neutral. This change is done simply because it makes the most sense for those products that are less frequently updated. Most importantly, softbound products are preferred by customers because they reduce filing errors and the need to hire temporary help to update volumes. They also make it considerably easier for customers to update their collections. Customers also have indicated a preference for softbound products because they save time and money.
Isn't a loose-leaf updating format a better "green" practice?
Given all the factors that go into producing both formats - loose-leaf and softbound - they can be considered equally "green."
How were customers selected to take part in the pilot program?
The pilot program involved titles that were selected based on how often they were updated, not specific customers. If a particular customer subscribed to a product that met the pilot criteria, the customer would receive the product in the new format and we would then follow up with a survey. Baseline thresholds for loose-leaf updating now include one- to three-volume titles that are updated annually, or one- to two-volume titles that are updated twice per year. We also talk with authors and editorial teams to get their opinions whether softbound updating would best serve the specific needs and purposes of each title.
What types of firms/libraries participated in the pilot programs?
Again, the pilot program involved titles that were selected based on how often they were updated, not on specific customers. The pilot included customers from all segments.
OY! Life is just too damn short to annotate each scripted response with a reality-check. Besides, no one really believes the cited customer input thing as being why TR Legal really made this tactical move as part of a strategic marketing decision in the credenza war, right? (Hell, I do remember taking some sort of TR electronic delivered customer survey about eBooks-eReaders-users many months ago. I think I was into the second question wherein I responded something like "no or not yet interested." In the logic of survey question tree branching, one would think TR Legal would want to know more about this response but this so-called customer survey didn't. My negative response terminated the survey with something that said to the effect, "well then, we don't want to hear anything more from you." But I digress... .)
Now, here are "two" questions not asked by CRIV's narrow focus but I will answer them for TR Legal.
Q: What is the marketing objective of this format switcheroo movement for these new editions of secondary sources?
A: To sell more of the titles directly to practitioners. They can then put the pamphlets on their credenza so they won't have to walk all the way to the law library. Like OMG dude, think of the increased guaranteed revenue stream! From one copy in the law library to copies for every attorney who practices in the area covered by these titles on standing order. Just about every damn tax attorney has the annual US Master Tax Guide in his office. Ditto gifts and estate tax practitioners. You got any idea how many labor and employment lawyers have BNA treatises in their office. Ditto IP attorneys. And those BNA hardcopy titles with soft cover updates aren't cheap! We think practitioners are dumb enough not to know the editorial qualitiy differential vis a via BNA and CCH for our forthcoming line of cradenza ready access pamphlets. Besides we can't let RIA, WG&L and PPC have all the fun. We're fighting the linear feet war for limited credenza space. Every inch matters!
Q: Yeah but (?)
A: Bro, stop right there. In the spirit of our "partnership," don't you get it! This is just the first step. The next marketing objective is to sell these pamphlets in eBook format using our ProView platform for a mark-up because they will be enhanced versions of the print editions. Once we do that buyers of our pamphlets will want to convert their p-standing orders to automatic licensing renewals for their ProViewed eBooks. You see, we already know that many of our traditional deskbook pamplets of "cradenza-ed" primary materials are not annually acquired for two reasons: the price we charge for nominal changes and practitioners don't want to lose there margin note. Our ProView platform will retain and carry over margin notes for old to new editions. Should we deny that functionality for secondary sources being format switched? Pretty soon you will be reading from Marketing about how our customers want us to ProView everything to "meet their needs in the most convenient and use-friendly [ProView] formats. At least then the above response to being "green" won't sound so lame.
Deskbooks will be the new center of the private law library as Kevin Miles suggests in his recent Spectrum article, Library on a Credenza: Well-annotated deskbooks as the new center of the private law library, with one very important qualification -- these nouveau "ready access" tools will be at the new center of law firm library acquistions spending. After private law libraries place standing orders for TR Legal's freshly converted titles in bulk, they will also be hard pressed not to license their ProView editions in bulk when offered as well. ProView editions will cost more than the p-book prices (current ProView editions of court rules and the like have a list price of about 10% more than their p-editions.) And ProView links-to will send users to WestlawNext, not Classic Westlaw. You know what that means for firms that haven't signed up for WLN yet.
As for the selection of TR Legal titles to experience the p-format switch for credenza-tion (and eventually experience being ProView-ed), do note that this first step is allegedly narrow focus on "one- to three-volume titles that are updated annually, or one- to two-volume titles that are updated twice per year." Ah, sorry Anne but in case you aren't in the know continue reading.
Get Ready for "Ready Access" Pamphlets That are Part of Larger Print Volume Sets. Case in point, the brand new, recently released Graham's Handbook of Federal Evidence, 7th Ed. (2011). (List print price: $735.00) Quoting from the Shipment Insert:
Depth of analysis invites a “READY ACCESS” tool. Shortly after the Evidence Rules were first adopted in 1975, West engaged Michael Graham to analyze them in a new Handbook. In writing and maintaining this work over the past 36 years, the author has considered every published case regarding these Rules. The result is today what was the beginning goal: “to provide the trial attorney and presiding judge – whether in court, in chambers, or in the office – a clear, precise, and, where possible, concise statement of what the law of evidence is in a convenient-to-use format.” As the authored analysis now extends to over 6,000 pages in six volumes, a one volume READY ACCESS softcover gives users a handy and portable quick reference guide to the larger treatise. As described in the Preface, READY ACCESS enables one to reach a destination in print or online ASAP.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. With the new Rules, the expanded coverage, and the new READY ACCESS unit, the Handbook 7th is not your father’s treatise. Yet, still under the guiding hand of its originating author, it continues to accomplish its abiding goal: exposing the practical operation of the Federal Rules of Evidence in a convenient-to-use format.
The "ready access" pamphlet is nothing more than a deskbook. However in this case it is also clearly labeled Volume 1 of the seven volume set. The other volumes, excluding the pamphet index volume, are hardbound with slits for pocket parts. There is no doubt in my mind that we will see "Vol. 1" published annually and probably ProView-ed.
Do note, one can buy "Vol. 1" separately at a list print price of $67.00. At the moment I'm wondering what the authors of Courtroom Handbook on Federal Evidence, 2011 ed. might be thinking. Their one volume pamphet, which will eventually be updated for the restyled FRE, covers essentially the same ground including some commentary, but its current p-Book list price is $153.00.
Deskbooks are not new. They have been around as pamphlets as long as I have been a law librarian, like much longer than the MBA-types who are running (to the ground) TR Legal these days. This form of publication is however expanding in scope to include many more secondary sources. And that will only increase because, like it our not (and frankly, under the right circumstances, I like it) all this is production and marketing staging for law eBooks by TR Legal (and Lexis, et. al).
Kevin Miles offers a set of best practices for deskbooks in Library on a Credenza: Well-annotated deskbooks as the new center of the private law library, and suggests the creation of a wiki to share professional intelligence about them. All fine and well as long as no one says "based on review of comparable deskbooks, vendor X's is worth the cost and vendor Y's isn't." Here's Miles' call for action:
Further action about deskbooks is needed. I propose that a complete listing of deskbooks be available on the Private Law Libraries (PLL) Special Interest Section website in a wiki. This will be “crowd sourced” by members of PLL for completeness and currency. Finally, the wiki will serve as a source of information for library school students, law librarians, lawyers, and publishers.
"Ready Access" Tool: Evaluating p-Deskbooks. In and of itself this is a consumer advocacy call but unless the wiki is accessible to all, by which I mean it is not closed within the walled garden of AALL web communications inaccessible by general web search engines, lawyers, and law school students who are not AALL members will not be able to access this crowd-sourced professional intelligence of a product line being marketed to practitioners. In evaluating deskbooks, this is a case of advocating for individual consumers in addition to institutional buyers.
Miles offers an excellent est practices checklist for the elements of a model p-Deskbook in terms of completeness and currency. What's missing, however, is the terms and conditions of purchasing including the billing options available by the vendor to compete the picture. That however, was beyond the scope of his Spectrum article so no criticism is intended or implied. The model p-Deskbook proposed by Miles is a damn good starting point for p-Deskbooks.
"Ready Access" Tool: Evaluating e-Deskbooks. The future of e-Deskbooks is sufficiently obvious to be "here." The issues at hand for e-Deskbooks include content quality, completeness and currency plus unique features to the enhanced law eBook format like links-thru, upsells, disability compliance, the terms and conditions of licenses and buying options. If we follow AALL dogma, we can't share professional expertise that interferes with contractual relations. However, AALL as an organization of institutional buyers damn well better get in front of this issue instead of reacting to it years down the road with strings of hollow sentences.
Our very expensive professional legal services vendors view growth in terms of the individual consumer of law e-Books following the Amazon model. Many of those targeted are practitioners who are employed by member institutional buyers. Many more are not. But they can all benefit from our professional intelligence. If they don't because AALL does not provide a vehicle for sharing professional expertise, the basis for collective professional intelligence, open to all to access and read, once again our professional association will have failed.
End Note. Last week, I tried to license the least expensive currently offered ProView eBook that is clearly e-cradenza ready for Ohio litigators. It was one volume in the three volume Ohio Rules of Court - State, Federal, and Local, a pamphlet set that is not part of TR Legal's print format switcheroo scheme. All I wanted was the one volume for look-see purposes but I did not execute the licensing agreement, hence I did not buy it, because it required that I check a box which stated:
By choosing this subscription option, Subscriber is purchasing a license to this eBook and understands that West will be providing updates as they become available. All updates will be billed at then-current rates and charged to Subscriber’s account when they are delivered. Subscriber may decline any update by contacting West Customer Service within 45 days of receiving an update. However, the subscription will remain in effect until terminated upon Subscriber’s written request or is terminated by West. In either event, Subscriber will be entitled to have access to any previously ordered eBook(s) and any accepted updates pursuant to the eBook terms and conditions. Please agree to the terms.
After I tried to execute the purchase without checking the box, the above message popped up again. If my always short-term faulty memory isn't failing me (again), "Please agree to the terms" was displayed in red the second time. You know what that means, right? [JH]
Seems like TR is following Brittanica's model from 25 years ago or so, when it created the Propedia, Micropedia, and Macropedia.
Posted by: Ken Hirsh | Dec 19, 2011 5:33:26 AM