Is it live, or is it Memorex iPad?

As I was walking through one of the libraries at the firm, I started looking around at all of the books that still remain on the shelves. Some are battered, but most are in pristine condition with spines that would make an audible snapping sound if you were to open them for the first time. Some are primary law, while others are secondary resources dedicated to specific practice groups. Most of them we have through our multiple online subscriptions and databases. Some will soon be packaged as eBooks. Nearly all of them are expensive (costing $100+ per volume or more.) Yet, the rate of which these physical books are going away is not nearly as fast as I predicted ten years ago when I wrote a couple of chapters in a book about the Futures of Law Libraries. It seems some of us are going to be stuck with these for many years to come.

Then a thought hit me… a crazy thought, yes, but a thought. For about the cost of three of these books, I could actually buy a lower-end iPad and place on the shelf. Could I replicate a reporter set and make it easy for the researcher to ‘flip’ through the online version of the material on the iPad? Could it be set up to replicate the ‘feel’ of a book (which is kind of what the new eBook sales pitch wants us to believe)? What if I told the attorney that, just like with the books, if you use this format, we won’t bill the client for any of the usage? Would that do the trick? Could we get attorneys to use some of the online content that they don’t even know exists (cough, cough, IntelliConnect, cough, cough.) Could everywhere we had a law review section, place an iPad connected to HeinOnline there instead? Instead of a library copy of all those personal desk copies, could we have a pre-loaded iPad available in the library instead?

Is there a way to ween lawyers away from all these books that fill up shelf after shelf? Is that even something we really want to do? I’d really like to test out the whole ‘replace books with library iPads’ idea. Just for the simple reason that even if it failed… I’d at least end up with a number of iPads to play with in the end.

Image [cc] ivyfield

When I was at AALL last month, someone asked me who I though would “win” the e-book format challenge. I think they were giving me a multiple-choice answer between Kindle, iBooks, HTML5, etc. However, my answer was “D — None of the Above.” In my mind, the “winner” doesn’t even exist yet. It may take a few years of weeding through moving “the book” to “the e-book” to actually moving to a format that really takes advantage of everything that is available to us now, and will be available to us in the near future. Now, there are a number of things that are going on right now that are moving in a different direction, and publishers and entrepreneurs should take notice and start thinking of re-purposing and bringing to market.

Make Existing Formats Better!

Take a look at what one of my favorite teaching, Khan Academy, tools is doing to make it’s wonderful YouTube videos better. Sal Khan and e-textbook startup Kno have teamed up to integrate Sal’s video tutorials (which by themselves are awesome) into Kno’s electronic textbooks with “Smart Links.” Kno has set up an algorithm to automatically tag new Khan Academy videos to appropriate e-textbook pages. In a way, making the e-textbooks a living document that changes and improves over time.

Don’t Limit the Format to What Fits in Their Hands!

Many years ago, I remember watching a video of an airplane mechanic that had a virtual mechanic’s manual integrated into a pair of glasses. The idea behind that was that it was actually a safety hazard to lug a five-pound manual up on top of an airplane, and it would be more convenient to leave the mechanic’s hands free to work on the machinery rather than fumbling through a manual while searching for the right page and the right tool at the same time. I couldn’t find a copy of that old commercial, but I did find this YouTube video of a car mechanic with a virtual manual to show that access to information shouldn’t require standing in front of a PC or even holding an iPad.

The Demand Is There — Will You Fill The Need, Or Let Someone Do It For You?

The constant desire for a “more efficient workforce” may not be a strong in the legal market as it should be, but as we continue the mantra of “doing more with less” even law firms will need to find ways to push the right information, to the right people, at the right time. Of course, all of these processes also need to come with an overall improvement in costs to deliver that information. Law firms may want to take a look at an announcement this morning from United Airlines on how they are moving toward the fluidity of information, improving worker productivity, and reducing overall costs at the same time.

United Airlines is converting to what it is calling a “Paperless Flight Deck” by pushing out 11,000 iPads to all of its pilots (both United and Continental) and getting rid of all of its paper flight manuals. The idea is that pilots will have easy access to massive amounts of instructions, as well as the ability to access real-time information at any point in their flight. This isn’t just moving the paper manual to the iPad, it is making that information better by having the ability to update it instantly and push out that information at the right time to the right people. Not only does it improve the ability for pilots to do their jobs better, it also has the added benefit of reducing the amount of paper United uses by 16 million sheets of paper and saving an estimated 326,000 gallons of jet fuel every year.

The “Winner” Still Doesn’t Exist

I still think that the eventual “winner” (however you want to define that) doesn’t exist today. There is some new Steve Jobs / Bill Gates / Sal Khan out there getting ready to drop out of school, or quit their job to start on a crazy idea of how to better put information in front of people in such a unique way that they will end up billionaires for their efforts. I, for one, can’t wait to see what that end result will look like.

Is Justin Changing for Selena?

As I was getting everyone ready for school this morning, I looked over at the dinning room table and noticed my eleven year-old reading the latest issue of Tiger Beat magazine. I wouldn’t say that seeing my daughter read is an unusual thing, but seeing her read a magazine made me wonder if maybe there was hope for print media like this with a younger generation. After all, I remember my older sister enjoying reading Tiger Beat (I was more of a Dynamite magazine reader at that age), and thought that maybe this is one of those areas of interest where a kid prefers the feel of a glossy magazine… choke full of 8 x 11 posters of the latest teen heart throbs. So, in the interest of science, I went over and asked her a few questions.

Dad: “Do you like reading Tiger Beat as a magazine?”
Daughter: “Yeah… I guess.”
Dad: “Do you read it online?”
Daughter: “Yes.”
Dad: “Which do you prefer?”
Daughter: “Online. It’s much better online.”

The results of this highly selective, double-blind, super scientific survey of my eleven year-old daughter tells me that print magazines are a novelty to these kids.

I actually got to looking at the website for Tiger Beat, and noticed that there are a lot of interesting, interactive things that kids can do online. Add to that the slick looking browse feature of this month’s magazine (apparently Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber are changing each other – just in case you were wondering), latest news, videos, comment features on each story, interactive polls, and most of the same glossy posters you get in the magazine… makes you wonder why a kid would even want to pick up the magazine in the first place. Then it hit me… I think she bought the magazine because I won’t let her eat over by the computer and I won’t let her use my iPad when she’s eating breakfast. It seems that the only hope for pre-teen pop magazines is that parents all over the world making kids eat away from the computers in the house. I guess that’s something for print publishers to hang their hopes on.

I know that the Law Librarian Blog gets plenty of traffic all on its own, but I wanted to lead as many 3 Geeks’ readers over to the LLB for an excellent post from Bryan Carson called “Time to Reinstate the FTC’s Guidelines for the Law Book Publishing Industry.” Carson lays out some of the details surrounding the 2000 repeal of the FTC’s Guidelines for the Law Book Publishing Industry (.doc), and how since the repeal, publishers (not just legal publishers) have fallen back to tactics that the Guidelines were specifically set up to prevent.

Carson points out that the “revocation was taken despite the fact that every single comment received by the public cited the necessity of these guidelines and recommended that they be continued.” He goes on to list some of the abuses that were going on in 1969 (via Raymond Taylor’s 1975 article New Protection for Law Book Users) that prompted the need for the Guidelines’ creation in 1975. See if any of these look familiar:

  • Putting new titles and new binders on old materials (particularly looseleaf items);
  • Including the same book in two different series;
  • Overpricing supplements and issuing new editions rather than supplementing;
  • Issuing misleading advertisements (particularly in terms of works designated as “new,” “revised,” or “enlarged”);
  • Using unnecessarily expensive bindings and formats;
  • Putting local names on books that are not truly local;
  • Adding remotely related books to established sets to assure their automatic sale;
  • Failing to advertise prices of major items;
  • Failing to issue supplements for books that otherwise will soon be obsolete;
  • Issuing treatises in looseleaf form; and
  • Failing to put correct printing date on republished books.
Carson calls for a couple of actions steps needed to correct these types of abuses in 2011.
  1. Reinstating the FTC Guidelines for Law Book Publishers
  2. Expanding the FTC Guidelines beyond Law Book Publishers to include other specialized fields such as the medical industry and other fields that have limited choices in their selection of necessary publications
  3. Seek antitrust exemptions for all library organizations and allow them to ban together in order to give “teeth” to their existing guidelines (which, ironically because of antitrust laws, prevents them from enforcing those guidelines through boycotts or other collaborative efforts.)
It is a provocative read, and one in which I ask that those of you that buy materials from law book publishers would step out of your comfort zone and comment upon – either here, at the LLB post, on law-lib, or at a minimum, call or email a colleague to discuss the issue and think about what needs the next steps taken in addressing this issue. Inaction does not make any problems go away.

We mentioned last week that Thomson West was slapped with a $5.18 judgement from a case brought against them by two Law School Professors where West published shoddy pocket parts and attributed the profs’ names to the publication even though they did not write them. We also mentioned that the general consensus from those interested in the decision was that Thomson West would appeal that judgement. According to a report from Courthouse News Service (CNS) this morning, an appeal is coming.

Although CNS couldn’t get Thomson Reuter’s VP of Communications, John Shaughnessy, to comment, they did get him to admit that TR planned an appeal because the verdict had “no basis in fact, law or equity.”   From some of those I’ve talked to in the legal publishing and library industry, the thought is that TR will attempt to get the entire case thrown out by the appeals court, or at a minimum to get the damages reduced significantly.

As the CNS article points out, although Thomson West’s attorney, James Rittinger, defended his clients by saying that even though the pocket part that got published was “terrible,” there was no malice on behalf of his client and backed that up with mentioning that no one even complained about the pocket part when it was released. Even with that said, Rittinger admitted that “They would have been a lot better off if they paid them the 5,000 bucks.”

We’ll just have to wait a bit longer now to see what the final verdict in this mess ends up costing them.

My friend Joe Hodnicki over at Law Librarian Blog lays out a good overview of some of the bad decisions that West Publishing made in the whole Rudovsky vs. West matter. As Joe puts it, “Invoice-paying law librarians” have seen tricks and shams for a while now, but with so much going on, and in an economy where we’ve all taken on extra responsibilities, how does one fight these tricks?

Although West Publishing (Thomson Reuters Legal) got slapped with a $5.18 million verdict in this case, most people I’ve talked to don’t think that the final amount will be anywhere near that amount. Jonathan Turley writes on his blog that the amount will most likely be reduced, but that “Even at a total of $2 million, however, it would be a major new precedent in the field and the company is likely to appeal on contractual grounds. Indeed, this could end up in a Torts Treatise or West pocket part.”

I’ve sent a message to the AALL Executive Board and the SLA Legal Division Board about this matter, but I think there are things that we in the legal industry (whether you are a lawyer, librarian, paralegal, or secretary) that use these products should ask ourselves. In fact, Jason Wilson‘s comments on Jonathan Turley’s post say it better than I could, so I’ll just quote him:

Regardless of what happens to the verdict, the larger issue is the message concerning “sham” updates. I forget the price, but I believe customers paid around $175 or possibly more for the update that included only three cases. But for the Professor’s review of the material and their objections, no retraction and more thorough update would have been forthcoming. For me, the question is:
  • Who is policing the content for sale?
  • Do you know if the content you buy, whether online or in print is current?
  • Does this opinion change how you feel about West Publishing products?
  • Will it make you scrutinize a product more carefully before you purchase it?
We all feel like something should be done to prevent things like this from happening, or at least quickly identify questionable practices and call out publishers when they are playing tricks with publications. The $64,000 question (or maybe it is the $5.18 million question) is what do we do from here?
There are really good people in the legal publishing business… but there are also those that pull stunts like this one in order to pad the bottom line in a weak market. The stunts are being pulled as Joe Hodnicki mentions in a previous post where Scott Burgh points out a number of questionable actions that publishers are playing with updates, volume replacements, and pocket parts that have changed very little, yet cost very much. AALL’s CRIV members have been pointing out these practices for years to its members, and the Guide to Fair Business Practices for Legal Publishers is mentioned almost every time somebody identifies a questionable practice by a legal publisher. Yet, the practices seem to continue. 
How can we, as customers, stress to the publishers that attempting to run schemes like these may help the bottom line in the current fiscal quarter, but will have long-term damaging effects for years to come?

I’m sure West Publishing is going to appeal to have the Rudovsky decision tossed out and attempt to go back to business as usual. So, what are you going to do?

Interesting news out of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania where a jury awarded David Rudovsky and Leonard Sosnov $90K each against West Publishing for defamation and for placing the Defendants in a false light. In addition to the $180K, the jury also slapped West with punitive damages for $2.5M for each defendant.
Here are the court documents for the jury’s verdict:

The background of the case is covered very well by Erika Wayne at Legal Research Plus, and the jury decision was broken by Louis J. Siricos, Jr. at Legal Skills Prof Blog. Basically, it seems that West tried to cut the salaries of the authors of West’s publication on Pennsylvania criminal procedure treaties, which Rudovsky and Sosnov refused to accept. According to the complaint, West publishing went ahead and published a pocket part for 2008 updates, and included the names of the two professors.
West Publishing argued that the authors were not damaged from the update… but, it seems that the jury seems to think otherwise and gave the authors a $5 million Christmas present.

I was joking around with Sarah Glassmeyer on Twitter yesterday that the graph she did on Thomson Reuters acquisitions would explode if she added in all the mega-company acquisitions from 2010. Although today’s news about TR becoming the primary printing and binding shop for the American Bar Association isn’t exactly an acquisition, it does louden that sucking sound that represents the legal publishing world.

“With this new printing arrangement with Thomson Reuters, we’re able to better manage the production and delivery of our books,” said Bryan Kay, director, ABA Publishing. “We can more efficiently produce and grow the list of high-quality publications, covering a broad range of topics that the legal profession counts on from the ABA.”
Printing and manufacturing services for the ABA’s publications will be performed at Thomson Reuters’ 1.3 million-square-foot manufacturing, distribution and engineering facilities headquarted in Eagan, Minn.

Lexis isn’t standing still either in consolidating legal publishing into a true duopoly. They announced earlier this week that they were acquiring State Net, right after they off-loaded Congressional Information Service (CIS) and University Publications of America to ProQuest. This makes me wonder how long it will take TR to gobble up ProQuest.

As for the ABA/TR deal, it probably makes sense for the ABA to outsource the primary printing operations to an established shop like TR… and with the reduced demand for TR’s legal publications, it is most likely a “win-win” for both parties.

While I was at the AALL annual meeting in Denver last month, I talked with both of the major legal publishers and asked them if they could tie their online legal research tools (Westlaw & Lexis) to the print titles that their customers also subscribe. Of course, no one could give me a “yes” or “no” on that question because of the logistics surrounding accomplishing such a feat. However, here’s my idea, and if it sounds like a good one, then approach your local rep and start asking them to look into doing it. For every title that your law library subscribes to in print, the Westlaw or Lexis databases should identify those titles whenever they come back in a search result or database lookup. In my opinion, it should do so regardless of if you also subscribe to that same title in its electronic format.

What would be the value in letting researchers know that the print version of this resource is located in the library? It would seem to me that it would be a win-win-win situation for the researcher, the librarian and the vendor. The researcher would know that he or she could walk into the library and pull the resource off of the shelf, sit down and easily flip through the resource, finding all of the related resources that are not just found in that specific book, but also from the additional topical resources that physically surround that book within its placement within the library. We’ve all browsed the shelves before where we’ve found a great resource that just happened to be shelved next to the book we were intending to use for our research.

It is a win for the library because it has the potential of bringing foot traffic back into the library. With foot traffic comes opportunities to talk with those researchers (lawyers, judges, professors, paralegals, legal assistants, etc.) and build face-to-face relationships. Those relationships bring additional opportunities to market the library, solicit feedback from the researchers, and to make yourself and your library a bigger presence within your organization. What products like West km or Lexis AtVantage do for locally created content, this could do for locally held print collections.

How about adding a “Print Version In Library” Note??

It is a win for the vendors because it finally gives them a legitimate answer to the question “why should I duplicate print and electronic resources?” As Joe Hodnicki over at the Law Librarian Blog calls the de-duping of print and electronic resources “The Shed West Era“, it is clear that library collections are cancelling as many print titles as they can… starting with any that they have access to in their electronic form.

Not enough room for text?? How about a book icon with a pop-up note?

Perhaps this idea should have been implemented five years ago. However, it doesn’t mean that it is too late to benefit from the tying of the print and electronic resources together.

What do you think?? If the vendor placed an icon, or wording next to results that said that this resource is available in your library… would that interest your researchers enough to take a trip into the library to check it out??

Well, at least now we can assume we know where a lot of those 132 jobs at Banks-Baldwin are going to wind up. According to the Philippine Business Mirror, Thomson Reuters Legal (TR Legal) is using its 275 employee Taguig City, Philippines office as a launching pad. According the article, the Filipino office will be where the “data are processed, codified, proofread, analyzed and validated by Filipino employees and packaged as products for the customers in print, digital or online format.”

Outsourcing to India and the Philippines is not new, even for TR Legal. I did find it interesting to see the wording that TR Legal COO Vin Caraher used when describing what they are doing.  Caraher said that this office is “not legal outsourcing. We’re hiring and training them as our employees.” Granted, this is not legal outsourcing, but the semantics of the discussion are probably pretty hard to hear from those at Banks-Baldwin who are watching their jobs go to overseas offices. It’s also got to sting when they also read from Caraher that TR Legals expansion in the Philippines “reflects our commitment to growing our capabilities in the Philippines. The work being done at this site by our highly skilled and talented team is critical to our global content operations, and in supporting legal professionals around the world.”  John Elstad, Senior VP of Legal-Editorial Operations, seemed to go a little further in his comments than TR Legal usually does when discussing the work performed at its off-shore operations by saying that they don’t just gather data, but analyze the data and “add value to it.”

It seems that legal editorial work has gone the way of manufacturing and is making its way out of the United States and off to India and the Philippines. Again, not a shocking statement… we’ve all watched this trickle away for years now. This is just one more chapter in the ever shrinking legal publishing market, and the race to find the cheapest labor pool. Perhaps the good new will be that will all the savings that TR Legal is getting through moving positions overseas, perhaps we’ll see a drop in the price of their products?? If not, then how are we, the customer benefiting??