Wouldn't it be great to be able to take all the latest book release and other publication notices from all the publishers, and have them automatically feed onto a web page for you? Or into your email, as one discrete message rather than several? Then you wouldn't have to hunt around websites quite so much, and the publisher reps wouldn't have to belittle us for not having read their latest bulletin because, well, it was one of only twenty you received in the past week and you can't quite keep track. Not to mention the mounds of paper created by direct mail, which I personally stopped reading eons ago.
Here is a an informal survey of legal publisher websites, and what they offer for new publication current awareness. Notices sent by individual publisher reps were not included since these probably vary and may not be available to all customers. This is not meant to be harsh criticism, but rather to nudge the industry into thinking about producing RSS feeds for those of us who could use them. So far I couldn't find a single major Canadian legal publisher taking advantage of RSS on their websites. For the breakdown, read on….
Publisher websites in alphabetical order:
Nicely laid out sections "What's New," "What's Hot, and "Coming Soon" could benefit from providing an RSS feed for new items added to these sections.
No feed for new titles, only a "new releases" section on the front page (currently showing one item) and "top picks" section. As well, the ability to drill down by subject through products.
Their "What's New" section is broken down by week of release. This is also available via email. It could be a short step to turning this into an RSS feed.
Upcoming courses and conferences are listed by date. Seminar reports and other publications are listed alphabetically on website, broken down by year. An email of upcoming courses and conferences, called "E-newsletter" targeted by topics of interest is available. No RSS.
Upcoming conferences are searchable by subject area and city. Reports from past conferences are searchable by subject area (here called "sector") and report type, paper or web. Seems to me they spend a lot of effort trying to fax notices to people who may be interested, many of whom have left the organization. Perhaps it is time for them to change their communication process. They do take feedback on their communication with customers from this page.
I'm an unabashed fan of Irwin Law's website, designed by Pneumatic Press. I love visiting periodically to "go shopping", easily identifying and adding new titles or forthcoming titles of interest to the shopping cart, and then billing those items to my account number (i.e. no credit card needed). The only thing that would make the process easier would be a new titles feed so that I wouldn't have to remember to visit the website.
A "What's New" list on the front page, but no RSS feed. There is also a place to ask to be added to their "Mailing List" where you can indicate subject areas of interest; however, it is not clear what the Mailing List will get you, even whether it is email or direct mail or both. I'm not quite sure why anyone would ask to be added to this list.
This publisher does not put out a lot of new titles, so it's not surprising there is little current awareness on the website. There was a newsletter called "MLB News", but that appears to have last been published a year ago. They do have pages listing recent Supreme Court of Canada and other noteworthy decisions. I can't determine whether there is an accompanying email service for these.
"Hot" and "New" buttons take the website visitor to alphabetical lists which can be slow to load when the lists are long. There is an email list which one can sign up for, but you need to be set up with a customer profile to do so.
The monthly newsletters "Law Book News," "International Law Book News" and "Canadian Abridgment News" are available in PDF only. They are slick, but some issues are slow to download due to file size (January 2006 issue of Law Book News is 3.32 MB, which took a good minute to download on my system. Results may vary!)
The layout is nice with complete information; however, the format is really meant for printing. They are difficult to scan quickly on the screen.
I notice the "international" section is a dynamic .asp page and wonder if Thomson is using feeds itself to create content, why it can't provide the customer with the same? Also, getting to these pages is at least two clicks deep. Why is this content not available directly on the front page, or at most one page deep?