Two weeks ago in this space I did a survey of major Canadian legal publishers, only to discover no one has yet started using RSS feeds to supply updated information about their products. A question was posed, as to whether the only reason to create an RSS feed is to avoid spam filters that mass email messages might encounter.
While this is a solid reason to use RSS, I envision something a wee bit beyond just reading each feed in a personal aggregator such as Bloglines or Feedreader. I envision setting myself (or perhaps my library association members) up with a web page or single feed where we can read all the feeds from the various publishers combined together. Imagine visiting the page or receiving its email once a week to see “what’s new” from all the publishers in a one-stop shopping succinct format, instead of wading through the barrage of email and direct mail that comes in constantly. Then just click through any item you wish to purchase, put it into your “shopping cart”, bill the items to your account. And then sit back (ha!) and wait for the books to arrive.
With this method, catalogues mailed out or delivered to clients are no longer necessary to notify us about new titles. I will let you in on a little secret: I stopped using hard copy catalogues from the publishers about two years ago. Instead, I either return them when I see the sales rep or pitch them out. They are no longer useful to me. I don’t have time to sit down and page through them when they come in to see what is new. I should already know what has changed over the previous year from the briefing from the publisher. I only want to use a catalogue online, where I can search for a specific title, author, ISBN/ISSN, or subject area. I check the website catalogues to obtain the most current details such as price and availability, so a hard copy catalogue is too out of date for this purpose.
In addition to disregarding catalogues, I stopped reading ALL direct mail from our major publishers, and have standing instructions with Maggie who opens my mail to pitch it all. Evil, no? Again, I rely on the websites or the sales reps to tell me what is forthcoming or what I might have missed. I don’t have time to sort through mountains (and I mean mountains) of what amounts to junk mail. The RSS feed of new books is, therefore, the ideal way to keep me apprised of changes as they get added to the catalogue.
Legal publishers should see this attitude as an opportunity as opposed to a criticism. Once they have set up RSS feeds and proper online catalogues with full search functionality, they could significantly reduce costs associated with printing catalogues and direct mail for many of their markets.
Previous related posts by Connie Crosby:
Desperately Seeking: RSS from Legal Publishers (February 17, 2006)
Syndication 101 for Publishers (February 17, 2006)