Column

Less Publishers, More Information About Them… Eventually!!

It’s been a bit of a up-and-down month in the world of legal publishing and I could choose to write yet another piece on the expected demise of LexisNexis or those lawyers taking Westlaw to court but we all know that those records are getting a bit worn.

But…… thinking about this issue and the amount of articles that have appeared on both these subjects since the new year has made me realize that in the past decade of publishing my pdf newsletter “Law Librarians News” and then subsequently my House of Butter blog ,we’ve all made huge leaps when it comes to the reporting of the legal publishing industry.

I started publishing Law Librarians News in Sydney nigh on a decade ago. We are now almost 250 issues old!

At the time I started publishing, any information about the sector was either tightly held by management at the major legal publishers or operated as gossip between information professionals at law firms, and even then, only the larger ones.

Library managers at smaller firms were, literally, through no fault of their own “clueless “about the publishers’ modus operandi. Except that they knew they were being charged too much for services and couldn’t do a thing about it other than to operate in that budget hinterland between publisher and law firm partner.

But a number of factors over the years — including the downturn, technology, social media, a change of attitude in libraries, and also the fact that a growing number ex-publisher employees have been brave enough to write and challenge industry standards — have, in turns, changed the information landscape on the subject.

Not only are there newsletters, blogs and websites but we also note that the subject of legal and professional publishing is also a matter for media in general as well as for those companies whose job it is to analyze market sectors.

Only this past week we saw a report indicating that the global professional publishing industry is to grow 3% over next year ,which made us chuckle somewhat, because only a few years back with growth at around 13-15% a quarter at both Lexis and Westlaw, information like this was not deemed worthy of an industry report never mind a mention in the media.

So, to celebrate this fact I thought it would be worth highlighting some of the writers and publications now regularly commenting on and writing about the industry that I attempt to read regularly.

It’s also worth noting that in years past there was a distinctive split between those who wrote about publishing and those who wrote about technology. Although not quite moot these two areas are no longer as divergent as they once were and I’d suggest you’d learn as much about legal publishing in 2012 from Charles Christian and Kevin O’Keefe as you will from my column. Although I probably shouldn’t tell you that.

LLN’s House Of Butter’s Reading List:

USA

Canada

UK

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Comments

  1. Thanks for this post Sean, especially the reading list.

    From the librarian perspective, it is excellent to have publishing industry insiders, or former insiders, educating us abour legal information pricing. It is also criticlly important to have information circulating among law librarian networks.

    You mention the BIALL Blog in your post. I would also add the work done by the Canadian Association of Law Libraries Vendor Liaison Committee. The CALL VLC website for your reading list.

  2. Gary P Rodrigues

    On this occasion, it is worth noting that Sean Hocking played a pivotal role in opening up the closed world of legal publishing to the uninitiated by means of his informed reporting and insightful commentary on his pioneering website.

    Information and analysis about the legal publishing industry is divided into the

    pre-Sean

    and

    post-Sean

    eras. Through his efforts, industry “secrets” became less secret and users of legal information became more informed than ever before. This is a good thing.

    I first heard of the “House of Butter” from Robert Mackay. Over the years, Robert frequently referenced the site in conversations about legal publishing issues. I finally checked it out and was truly amazed by what he had created.

    Bravo Sean on your tenth anniversary. Keep up the good work.

  3. In my view, the great change and improvement has been that the commentary, certainly more recently, has become incisive and analytical, rather than simply opposing. This removes the unintended yet potential risk of suggesting that the legal publishing industry is filled with morons and “yes” men and women, which it is not.

    In my view, legal publishing has never been about great secrets, such as are some other industry sectors (gossiping publishers can’t keep secrets). However, a positive aspect of the past few years has been the focus on poor customer service, pricing policies, profitability and strategic decision making. These seem to me to be areas in which the light shined on the legal publishing industry has been most beneficial, particularly when combined with highlighting, in a positive way, areas of best practice that can be identified.