In what seems like another age I wondered about the same question and decided to start publishing an online newsletter that most readers of this article will be aware of, Law Librarians News.
Then to keep up with trends and technology I also started publishing the House Of Butter blog and subsequently a Law Librarians News Twitter both of which appear, I hope, to be popular with an online readership.
It might appear that I’m doing my utmost to blow my own trumpet but it has always been somewhat of a surprise that it’s only those from the U.S. and the Canadians who seem to have understood that it’s imperative to try and keep tabs on what the legal publishers are doing in any given quarter or year and it is these individuals who are to be congratulated for information resources such as this site, SLAW or the always worth a read , the Joe Hodnicki-led Law Librarians Blog.
There are also a host of other independent North American legal information blogs publishing informative articles and posts regularly. Admittedly these sites are usually leaders for businesses supplying the legal industry with one information product or another. But that said the product propaganda tends top be kept to a sensible minimum and a selection of reports from these blogs in any given week of the year is usually a fairly reliable indicator of what’s happening in the North American legal information industry.
There’s only been one major blip in the last few years and that was the highly successful effort Westlaw Next put into bringing bloggers and information centres onside for the launch of that product.
Westlaw Next did a great job of persuading both legal library managers and bloggers that there was nothing closer to the company’s heart than pure love and affection for every legal librarian and writer on the North American continent. The honeymoon was of course, short lived, as we all learnt by mid 2010 when TR West started disappearing their “Library Relationship Managers”. I now get the feeling that many on the receiving end were more than miffed that they’d had the wool pulled over their eyes. As the Who once said, they “Won’t Be Fooled Again”
But elsewhere it’s been planet radio silence. A few official blogs the best of which being the BIALL (British & Irish Assoc Law Librarians ) blog report infrequently on some issues concerning the legal information publishing industry. Although if there’s something nasty to be said it’s normally said quietly amongst committee members as they are also generally clients with very large accounts.. God forbid one should anger senior sales managers at West or Lexis, just the fear of re-negotiating gigantic contracts is enough to make sure that issues are quietly resolved and only partially so, rather than made public.
The same applies to the majority of Law Library blogs, of which there are only a handful outside the US. They tend to start with a flurry and even the odd post suggesting that not all is always hunky dory with their suppliers tends to err on the side of caution. We’re yet to see a library blog that has decided to take the bull by the horns and go beyond standard advice for their library users on how to use the two main databases. Maybe the revolution is silent and that’s perceived by the users as the best way to deal with the legal publisher issue.
I can understand why the world of legal information might not always be the most exciting industry to report on but it does amaze me when I hear so many complaints that never get made public or even more surprising the absolute unhappiness many librarians want to share privately about the publishers but at the same time they’re equally adamant that their concerns should never go beyond a private conversation.
Now we come to new markets that both companies are making inroads into. South America, China & India.
It goes without saying nobody in China is going to complain. Firstly it’s too hard and without a doubt there are more pressing details to deal with in the world that is China law. The South American market is still too small but I am constantly surprised that India, a country that’s got plenty to say about the entry of foreign law firms, doesn’t really have much to say about the likes of Lexis & Westlaw who are in the market and carving themselves a niche that could make them a lot of money
So although I’ve asked the question I’m not sure I know the answer. Is reporting the legal publishing market is simply too boring, too confusing or does it just feel like fighting a constant losing battle?
As a writer on and about the industry all I can say is that this is exactly what executives at the major legal publishers would us to feel: a sense of ennui that defies action and therefore ensures writers and information managers will give up reporting on these secretive companies .
So to conclude: Congratulations to the North Americans and now it’s time for Australia and the UK amongst others to follow the lead and create independent information sources that help keep tabs on the suppliers.
Legal Information blogs outside North America
BIALL Blog http://biall.blogspot.com/
List of Law Librarian Blogs – http://aallcssis.pbworks.com/w/page/1189465/Law-Library-Blogs
Birbeck Library Blog http://birkbecklibrarylaw.blogspot.com/
Uni of Hong Kong http://obelix.lib.hku.hk/cdblog/?cat=40
Exploded Library – Australia – http://www.explodedlibrary.info/