January 26, 2012
Content In Their Containers: The birth of a new form of legal publication and how it will be sold
"Content, Not Containers!" is the brief comment Jason Wilson added to his tweet that calls attention to CALI Director of Content Development Sarah Glassmeyer's recent CALI Spotlight Blog post. Content is certainly important but the reality is content is always shaped by its container, be it in print or electronic format. Just look at how secondary sources have been chopped up into itty-bitty content slices by our major legal search vendors in their database displays. Not a good thing in my humble opinion but the database container provides links to cited sources which is a good thing.
One solution to the content destruction of databased secondary sources while the preservation of embedded links is the rapidly coming generation of enhanced law eBooks by our major commercial vendors. Of course, they are going to provide links to their own online search services. However, following the industry maxim, do the opposite of whatever TR Legal is doing, I'm willing to place two bets:
First, our other major legal vendors of enhanced eBooks won't link to their "next-gen" search services databases until their legacy (aka "classic") services are vaporized. TR Legal ProView eBooks link to WestlawNext, not Classic Westlaw. Talk about "customer experience," the TR Legal way -- let's frustrate the hell out of our eBook buyers until they finally adopt WLN.
Second, our other major legal vendors won't allow just anyone who has an institution-based and supplied user account to acquire one of their enhanced eBooks that can be charged to the insitution's billing account without prior authorization from the person who has to pay those charges. Talk about "customer education," the TR Legal way -- let's really po our institutional buyers with our OnePass end-around (which may lead them to having to adopt WLN).
More about TR Legal's ProView sales-OnePass user account stunt later; oh hell, let's get it over with now. Even some West folks have complained about it. Can we hope that the Company listens to its own employees and has changed this sales stunt since I gave it a look-see in December (and promptly emailed my West rep an "under no circumstances will we pay those charges because it violates Ohio state law for county law library purchasing")? Beyond the world of Ohio county law library statutory requirements, I think every other private, academic and public sector law library may want to examine the terms of its Westlaw-WLN licenses to see if this use of their OnePass accounts is even legal. But if so, is it desirable?
If this sales tactic has not been changed since I last looked, do note well, TR Legal has its usual CYA in boilerplate displays covering terms and conditions of sales and a certification statement prior to the execution of the ProView sale. However, isn't it a bit ironic that TR published on Dec. 21, 2011 a press release titled Online Shoppers Are Careless Reading Their Legal Agreements, Says New FindLaw Survey.
e = enhanced. Sarah's The Enhanced Book post covers two topics.
One, the amazing possibilities that ebooks offer, especially in an educational context. And two, that traditional publishers really need to up their game when it comes to ebook production.
When it comes to ebooks, especially educational ebooks, the content can be greatly enhanced and shaped by the container it is held in.
I certainly agree but wouldn't emphasize educational eBooks. In the legal context, Sarah's content enhancement statement, in my opinion, applies to all enhanced eBooks. The day is coming when the "e" in law eBooks will stand for "enhanced." It will be the norm at least in law eBook customer expectations, perhaps as early as the end of this year. Someday, this "e" will encompass more than just links to commercial database resources. It will include multimedia. It will also include work product enhancing materials like text editable downloadable forms, contract clauses, etc., that may not be databased-linked but may be upsells.
Hopefully, those remaining smaller legal publishers provide links to reliable open access primary legal sources as well as free downloading of work product enhancing materials. Wait 'n see. In the meantime, Sarah's The Enhanced Book post is highly recommended. [JH]