Consumer Advocacy and Scholarly Publishing

At the Association of College and Research Libraries’ Blog ACRLog, California Law Librarian Michael Ginsborg issues a call for united action on the part of libraries to protect themselves from anticompetitive practices in the publishing world. Ginsborg references Robert Darnton’s recent work in the New York Review of Books highlighting the extent to which libraries (and their users) are damaged by such practices. He also links to his own more detailed article in Spectrum, the American Association of Law Libraries’ topical monthly, where he looks at some of the current realities in the relationship between law libraries and legal publishers. Ginsborg also summarizes the history of the FTC Guides for the Law Book Industry (16 C.F.R. ss265.0-256.17 (1985)). These guides, in effect from 1975-2000, were the outcome of law library action inspired by a 1969 article in the ABA Journal, Lawbook Consumers Need Protection. Current information on the industry from the library perspective is most accessibly offered in Ken Svengalis’ yearly publication, Legal Information Buyer’s Guide and Reference Manual.

Ginsborg is not the only one. On January 4 of this year Brian Carson, a Lawyer, Law Librarian and Doctor of Education made a case for renewing the Guides, or for similar action at the Law Librarian Blog. That posting came in the wake of Rudovsky v. West Publishing Corp. (E.D. Pennsylvania, No. 09-cv-000727-JF), in which two authors were awarded more than $5 million for defamation. West had published a sub-standard pocket part under their names without their consent. For any who do not know, exorbitant fees for pocket part updates are a major flashpoint of law library discontent in the US.

This should remind us that it is not only the libraries and their users who suffer when publishers become more rapacious. It is also authors.

Comments are closed.