Category Archives: Publishing Industry

Elsevier acquires Social Science Research Network

SSRN, the social science and humanities repository, has been acquired by Elsevier. Elsevier plans to leverage its Mendeley technology to enhance SSRN’s repository and online community. Mandeley is a free reference manager and academic social network Elsevier acquired a couple of years ago. Here’s the press release. — Joe

AALL announces new product award

Congratulations to Ravel Law for winning AALL’s New Product Award for its legal analytics service. Ravel FAQ here. — Joe

Protecting the public from unregulated, non-traditional legal service providers

Legal software publishing companies and legal application developers that serve the public directly beware. A discussion paper from the ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services is inviting comments on proposing a regulatory scheme that would impose restrictions on currently unregulated, non-traditional legal service providers. See Issues Paper Concerning Unregulated LSP Entities (March 31, 2016). Is the ABA protecting the “public interest” or attempting to expand its control over competitive threats to the organized bar’s hegemony? — Joe

Reader analytics firm informs ebook publishers of reading behavior by specific titles

In Moneyball for Book Publishers: A Detailed Look at How We Read, New York Times, March 14, 2016, Alexandra Alter and Karl Russell report that Jellybooks, a reader analytics company, is providing statistical analysis of ebook reading behavior to seven unidentified trade publishers.

Here is how it works: the company gives free e-books to a group of readers, often before publication. Rather than asking readers to write a review, it tells them to click on a link embedded in the e-book that will upload all the information that the device has recorded. The information shows Jellybooks when people read and for how long, how far they get in a book and how quickly they read, among other details. It resembles how Amazon and Apple, by looking at data stored in e-reading devices and apps, can see how often books are opened and how far into a book readers get.

Alter and Russell also report that “[f]or the most part, the publishers who are working with Jellybooks are not using the data to radically reshape books to make them more enticing, though they might do that eventually. But some are using the findings to shape their marketing plans.”

reader analytics graphic

Click to enlarge above image to view an example of Jellybooks’ reader analytics. — Joe

RELX reports 7% increase in Lexis Legal & Professional’s profits

RELX, parent company of Lexis Legal & Professional, reported its annual earnings yesterday. Lexis L & P’s revenues for 2015 were £1,443m, compared to £1,396m in 2014, yielding a modest 1% increase in revenue. Operating profit for 2015 was £274m up 7% from £260m in 2014 and yielding an operating profit margin of 18.9%, up 40 basis points from 2014.

Using today’s pound sterling to US dollars conversion rate, the combined revenue of TR Legal and Lexis L & P for 2015 was $5.45 billion, with TR Legal capturing 62% of the market, leaving 38% to Lexis. Of course, we do not have Bloomberg Law’s financials because it is a privately held company so market share cannot be more accurately determined. — Joe

Thomson Reuters Legal approaches the holy grail of 30% profit margin

From February 11th’s report of 2015 full-year and Q4 earnings results comes the news that TRI’s cash cow, Thomson Reuters Legal, reported an operating profit margin of 29.4% for 2015. That’s one percentage point higher than last year’s results. Propelling this increase is the high-margin legal solutions line of products and services. As US Print continues its death spiral and US Online Legal Information remains stagnant, Solutions grew revenues by 6%. There is reason to believe that the continued growth of Solutions likely will produce an operating profit margin of 30% by the end of 2016. Soon, too, Solutions will represent 50+% of TR Legal’s revenue.  See graphics, below.

During the Great Recession, the Shed West era of collection development brought dramatic change to TRI’s balance sheet. From a high of 33%, TR Legal’s operating profit margin dropped to 26%. TR Legal shifted gears from being a publisher to being a legal solutions vendor that happened to have a large digital inventory of legal information.  That is to say one of our three very expensive suppliers of legal information is coming out of the Great Recession no longer primarily focused on legal publishing.  There will be consequences for the law library community. For one, I doubt many law libraries outside of the private sector participate in the solutions market. — Joe

tri 2015 legal results

tri 2015 pie

Fastcase sues Casemaker over copyright claim to Georgia State Rules & Regs: Updated

In response to a takedown notice issued by Lawriter (dba Casemaker), Fastcase is seeking a declaratory judgement and injunctive relief in US District Court so that it can continue to publish the Georgia Administrative Rules and Regulations for the Company’s 800,000 member subscription base, including, interestingly enough, members of the Georgia state bar. In a nutshell, Fastcase is hoping for a ruling that states that no one can own and publish exclusively public law. Here is the complaint in what may be a landmark case for the Open Law movement. — Joe

Update: Bob Ambrogi reports that Lawriter will not fight Fastcase’s lawsuit.

RIP Westlaw Classic and WestlawNext

Earlier this month Thomson Reuters announced that WestlawNext has been renamed Thomson Reuters Westlaw “in light of Westlaw Classic’s retirement.” Hat tip to LLB readers who called the name change announcement to my attention after reading this post. — Joe

Good old fashioned WEXIS competition

Just in case you haven’t noticed, the tab and sidebar war has returned for our very expensive legal search vendors. Without the branding could you tell which is WestlawNext and which is Lexis Advance? Ok, the key number symbol gives it away.

BTW when did Thomson Reuters drop “next?” — Joe

westlaw

lexis advance

Commercializing AI: TR’s Watson Initiative to launch global financial regulation product by year’s end

Among several other product announcements, Thomson Reuters Legal recently disclosed that it will release in beta the first legal product using Watson’s cognitive computing technologies by year’s end. On Dewey B Strategic, Jean O’Grady writes

Ever since TR announced their collaboration with IBM Watson last October, the legal community has been impatient to learn how this alliance will manifest in a legal product. We still don’t know but TR did promise that they will be the first company for built a legal product using Watson technology. The alliance will combine IBM’s cognitive computing with TR’s deep domain expertise. A panel of executives from TR and Watson revealed that there will be a beta product available by the end of 2016. Their first collaboration will focus on taming the complexities of global financial regulation.

Bob Ambrogi adds “The product will help users untangle the sometimes-confusing web of global legal and regulatory requirements and will be targeted at customers in corporate legal, corporate compliance and law firms. Initially, it will focus on financial services, [Erik Laughlin, managing director, Legal Managed Services and Corporate Segment, and head of the Watson Initiative] suggested, but will also address other domains important to corporations.”

Very interesting. Wouldn’t it be something if TR was prepared to demonstrate how this product will work at AALL ALI AALL in Chicago this year? — Joe

Beyond the pocket parts of Wright & Miller: Author supplements to pocket parts self-published because of publisher’s editorial decision to be more selective

Prompted by Thomson Reuters Legal’s decision to make Wright & Miller’s Federal Practice and Procedure more selective in describing and analyzing new case developments, Professor Joan Steinman, a co-author of the treatise, has been publishing digital compilations of case descriptions and citations to law review articles that complements the contents of the pocket parts to volumes 14B and C of the Wright & Miller treatise. “The cases described here either are not included at all in the 2015 volume 14B and C Pocket Parts or are cited there for different propositions than are reflected in this electronic publication.” Quoting from the abstract for Removal and Remand — Beyond the Supplements [SSRN, posted July 7, 2015]. See also Removal and Remand — Beyond the Supplements [SSRN, posted March 4, 2014].

This is the first time I’ve noticed something like this happening. Treatise authors confronted by similar WEXIS editorial decisions may want to follow Professor Steinman’s example. Unfortunately, the pocket parts at issue make no mention of Professor Steinman’s digital supplement. A statement could have been placed at the end of the following quotation from the pocket parts’ Preface:

As always, it is essential that the judge or lawyer using the Treatise check the supplementary material in connection with the question in which he or she is interested in order to be fully informed of the current state of the law.

— Joe

University of California System Goes Open-Access on Faculty Scholarship

The University of California System issued a directive near the end of October that require faculty to place their scholarly works in open access sources:

Each Faculty member grants to the University of California a nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly articles, in any medium, and to authorize others to do the same, for the purpose of making their articles widely and freely available in an open access repository. Any other systematic uses of the licensed articles by the University of California must be approved by the Academic Senate. This policy does not transfer copyright ownership, which remains with Faculty authors under existing University of California policy.

* * *

To assist the University in disseminating and archiving the articles, Faculty commit to helping the University obtain copies of the articles. Specifically, each Faculty member who does not permanently waive the license above will provide an electronic copy of his or her final version of the article to the University of California by the date of its publication, for inclusion in an open access repository. When appropriate, a Faculty member may instead notify the University of California if the article will be freely available in another repository or as an open-access publication. Faculty members who have permanently waived the license may nonetheless deposit a copy with the University of California or elsewhere for archival purposes.

Notwithstanding the above, this policy does not in any way prescribe or limit the venue of publication. This policy neither requires nor prohibits the payment of fees or publication costs by authors.

That last line is interesting.  There are two articles at the Chronicle of Higher Education worth reading that relate to the issue of fees.  One is What Open-Access Publishing Actually Costs by Ellen Wexler, and the other is What a Mass Exodus at a Linguistics Journal Means for Scholarly Publishing, also by Wexler.  Both are pretty good examinations of issues surrounding the hidden costs of open-access publishing.  The first article (later in date) points out that placement of scholarly articles even for open access can require a publication fee.  Comments there point out that someone is paying for the time to peer review (usually the university or college employing the reviewer through salary), or providing the server space, or other elements that go between the publication and its editorial and distribution network.

The other article tells of the mass resignation of the editorial staff for the journal Linqua, published by Elsevier.  The staff had asked that the journal become open-access and given to them to pursue that goal.  Elsevier unsurprisingly said no.  The company has said that it continue publishing the title under a new team.  The article states that authors currently must pay some $1,800 per article to make it free to readers among other costs.

This isn’t necessarily the model for law reviews.  They are edited by students and usually not peer-reviewed.  The trend is to make content available for free via the law journal’s web site.  Even still, the University or Law School has underlying costs to make this happen by paying for the underlying technical equipment and/or subsidizing the loss of subscriptions.  The takeaway from Wexler’s articles is that free really isn’t really free.  Costs shift to someone else.  Whether that model is sustainable remains to be seen.

Mark

Solutions businesses drive Thomson Reuters Legal’s growth

Last Friday, Thomson Reuters released its third quarter financial results. For TR Legal

  • Revenues increased 1%. Excluding US print, revenues grew 3%.
  • Solutions businesses (46% of the segment’s revenues) grew 4%, slightly lower than the first half of the year due to timing factors. Revenue growth was driven by Elite, Serengeti, Pangea3 legal managed services, and the Investigations and Public Records business. Solutions businesses represent all of Legal’s revenues excluding US print and US online legal information.
  • US online legal information (40% of the segment’s revenues) grew 2%, reflecting growth for the third consecutive quarter.
  • US print (14% of the segment’s revenues) declined 8%, as expected.
  • EBITDA was unchanged and the margin increased 90 basis points to 38.8% compared to 37.9% in the prior-year period. Excluding the benefit of currency, the margin increased 30 basis points.
  • Operating profit increased 4% and the margin increased 200 basis points to 31.7% compared to 29.7% in the prior-year period. Excluding the benefit of currency, the margin increased 130 basis points due to lower depreciation and amortization expense.

triq3dia

As one can see from the above, US Print and US Online Legal only represents 54% of the revenue generated by TR Legal during Q3. Solutions is the revenue growth driver and likely will surpass 50% of TR Legal’s total revenue in a couple of years as US Print continues its death spiral.

triq3

Do note TR Legal’s profit margin for the nine months ended Sept. 30th. At 29.3%, it is substantially higher than all of TR’s other divisions: Financial & Risk (17%), Tax & Accounting (21%), and Intellectual Property & Science (20.4%).

— Joe

Harvard’s MOOC on the Book

Via Press Release:

This fall, our colleagues at HarvardX, a University-wide initiative supporting faculty innovation in teaching, are helping with those connections by bringing to life some of the library’s holdings in the open online course The Book: Histories Across Time and Space.   Harvard librarians have been essential partners in the development of this course, and we hope it will increase awareness about the value of libraries as well as enthuse people about learning more about books and their impact on learning and society.

The Book, developed by HarvardX and available via edX, is an interactive learning experience made up of nine modules that examine the world of books, scrolls, and manuscripts. The course highlights aspects of these materials – from their physical structure and history to the print and handwriting found within their pages – across time and across cultures.

The Book brings learners inside the collections of Harvard’s libraries, providing access to some of the world’s most extraordinary works through the use of digital tools (including a rich image viewer) and perspectives from leading thinkers. A group of distinguished faculty members leads the course, including Jeffrey F. Hamburger (History of Art & Architecture, Faculty of Arts and Sciences), Robert Darnton (History, Faculty of Arts & Sciences and University Librarian emeritus), and Thomas Forrest Kelly(Music, Faculty of Arts and Sciences).

Anyone with an internet connection can take this self-paced course. Sign up for free today, and please share this opportunity with others.

Mark

Apple Loses Appeal In Ebook Case

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Apple’s arguments on appeal and upheld Judge Denise Cote’s finding that Apple violated the antitrust laws:

Defendants Apple, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster appeal from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Cote, J.), entered on September 5, 2013. After a bench trial, the district court concluded that Apple violated § 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1 et seq., by orchestrating a conspiracy among five major publishing companies to raise the retail prices of digital books, known as “ebooks.” The court then issued an injunctive order, which, inter alia, prevents Apple from signing agreements with those five publishers that restrict its ability to set, alter, or reduce the price of ebooks, and requires Apple to apply the same terms and conditions to ebook applications sold on its devices as it does to other applications. We conclude that  the district court correctly decided that Apple orchestrated a conspiracy among the publishers to raise ebook prices, that the conspiracy unreasonably restrained trade in violation of § 1 of the Sherman Act, and that the injunction is properly calibrated to protect the public from future anticompetitive harms. In addition, we reject the argument that the portion of the injunctive order preventing Apple from agreeing to restrict its pricing authority modifies Macmillan and Simon & Schuster’s consent decrees or should be judicially estopped. Accordingly, the judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED.

The main opinion was accompanied by an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, and a dissenting opinion.  Here are the opinions:

US v Apple Opinion US v Apple C&D In Part US v Apple D Opinion

Mark

Study: Academic Publishers Rake In The Dough

There is an interesting article from the CBC called Academic publishers reap huge profits as libraries go broke.  The sub-title is “5 companies publish more than 70 per cent of research papers, study finds.”  There is a constant cry from academic libraries in the United States, and I assume Canada, over the cost increases in scientific, medical, and social science journals.  Harvard University in fact joined that chorus three years ago in encouraging its scholars to publish in open source publications.  Academic libraries in some situations dropped Elsevier subscriptions in protest.  Others joined in as well.

The CBC article documents a study of publishers by Vincent Larivière and others from the University of Montreal’s School of Library and Information Science.  He found that the top five journal publishers held 53% of the academic journal market and had a 40% profit margin.  This sentence explains why that is possible.

“The quality control is free, the raw material is free, and then you charge very, very high amounts – of course you come up with very high profit margins.”

Indeed.  There is a link to the full paper within the article.  Here’s the abstract:

The consolidation of the scientific publishing industry has been the topic of much debate within and outside the scientific community, especially in relation to major publishers’ high profit margins. However, the share of scientific output published in the journals of these major publishers, as well as its evolution over time and across various disciplines, has not yet been analyzed. This paper provides such analysis, based on 45 million documents indexed in the Web of Science over the period 1973-2013. It shows that in both natural and medical sciences (NMS) and social sciences and humanities (SSH), Reed-Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Springer, and Taylor & Francis increased their share of the published output, especially since the advent of the digital era (mid-1990s). Combined, the top five most prolific publishers account for more than 50% of all papers published in 2013. Disciplines of the social sciences have the highest level of concentration (70% of papers from the top five publishers), while the humanities have remained relatively independent (20% from top five publishers). NMS disciplines are in between, mainly because of the strength of their scientific societies, such as the ACS in chemistry or APS in physics. The paper also examines the migration of journals between small and big publishing houses and explores the effect of publisher change on citation impact. It concludes with a discussion on the economics of scholarly publishing.

It’s published in PLOS ONE, which is an open source journal.

Mark

HathiTrust Wins On Appeal

I haven’t read the decision yet, so I can’t comment about it yet.  The opinion is here.  The Court’ summary states:

Plaintiff‐appellant authors and authors’ associations appeal a judgment  of  the  United  States  District  Court  for  the  Southern District  of  New York (Harold  Baer, Jr., Judge)  granting  summary judgment  to  defendants‐appellees  and  dismissing  claims of copyright infringement. In addition, the court dismissed the claims of  certain plaintiffs‐appellants for lack  of  standing  and dismissed other copyright claims as unripe. We hold, as a threshold matter, that certain plaintiffs‐appellants lack associational standing. We also hold that the doctrine of “fair use” allows defendants‐appellees to create a full‐text searchable database of copyrighted works and to  provide those works in formats accessible to those with disabilities, and that the claims predicated upon the Orphan Works Project are not ripe for adjudication. We vacate so much of the judgment as is based  on the district court’s holding related to the claim of infringement predicated upon defendants-appellees’ preservation of copyrighted works, and we remand for further proceedings on that issue. Affirmed, in part; vacated, in part.

The American Library Association issued a statement on the case:

Today, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling in Authors Guild v.HathiTrust, deciding that providing a full text search database and providing access to works for people with print disabilities is fair use. The court also ruled that the Authors Guild lacked standing, and therefore could not assert infringement claims against the HathiTrust. The Library Copyright Alliance (LCA), of which the American Library Association (ALA) is a member, filed an amicus brief in support of the HathiTrust.

ALA President Barbara Stripling released the following statement in response to the ruling:

“The Second Circuit today affirmed more than a lower court decision—it affirmed that the fair use of copyrighted material by libraries for the public is essential to copyright law. ALA is pleased that the court recognizes the tremendous value of libraries in securing the massive record of human knowledge on behalf of the general public and in providing lawful access to works for research, educational, and learning purposes, including access for people with disabilities.

“The continued acknowledgement of the importance of fair use to enable learning and support for the development of a well-informed citizenry makes the U.S. copyright law unique and well-functioning.”

This decision affirms that libraries can engage in mass digitization to improve the discovery of works and provide full access to those works to students with print disabilities enrolled at the respective HathiTrust institutions.

The general public can search the database using keywords and locate titles held in 80 member institutions. Full text access to the underlying works is allowed only for students with print disabilities enrolled at the University of Michigan and certified as disabled by a qualified expert. Students with print disabilities are blind or have a handicap that prevents them from reading printed text. Because of the full conversion of the texts to digital format that is accessible, these students can use adaptive technologies, such as text-to-speech, to read.

ALA will continue its defense of fair use in the HathiTrust case, should additional appeals be filed.

I expect that some of the reasoning in this case may affect the Guild’s case against Google.  We’ll see.  — Mark

Short Takes On The News: Law Schools and Copyright

Here are a few of the items I’ve been following while I’ve been convalescing.  Time Magazine focuses on a developing trend in law schools, that of cutting tuition to attract quality students.  The story identifies tuition drops of up to 18% at some schools.  I suppose it’s possible to cut only so many faculty and staff to maintain the status quo.  The last set of U.S. News rankings were particularly brutal for some schools.  While we’re on the subject, the latest statistics from the LSAC show that:

As of 4/4/14, there are 324,781 fall 2014 applications submitted by 47,176 applicants. Applicants are down 8.0% and applications are down 9.3% from 2013.  Last year at this time, we had 86% of the preliminary final applicant count.  Last year at this time, we had 93% of the preliminary final application count.

The drop in applicants and applications is not as great a percentage as earlier years, but it is another drop upon drop upon drop.  Schools will continue to struggle with downsizing nonetheless until the applicant pool stabilizes.

Law suits, we’ve got law suits.  The Authors Guild filed its appellate brief in the Google Book Scanning case that Judge Chin decided in Google’s favor.  The Guild, as usual, takes a narrow and somewhat absolutist view of fair use.  The brief argues in favor of Congress of creating a national digital library with royalties based on use statistics for access to full text rather than snippets of copyrighted works.  I wonder how the publishers would react to that.  A national digital library isn’t necessarily a bad idea.  I would think it would stifle book sales to a casual reader at the very least.   Would publishers get some of that royalty money?  The Guild’s testimony before Congress proposing the idea is here.  There’s a little bit of ripping on the HathiTrust as well.

I hope to be posting a little more frequently as my strength returns.  — Mark

Upcoming Webinar of the Digital Public Library of America

OCLC Research is presenting a free webinar called “Inside the Digital Public Library of America” Presented by Dan Cohen.  From the description:

In this OCLC Research Distinguished Seminar Series presentation, Dan Cohen goes behind the scenes to discuss how the DPLA was created, how it functions as a portal and platform, what the staff is currently working on, and what’s to come for the young project and organization.

More information and sign-up is here.  –Mark

Short Takes On The News: Justice Thomas, Big Law Money, Apple Appeal, and Firefox

Justice Thomas has made a few statements about race in the United States as reported in Salon and other sources yesterday.  Here are a few quotes:

“My sadness is that we are probably today more race and difference-conscious than I was in the 1960s when I went to school,” Thomas said. “To my knowledge, I was the first black kid in Savannah, Georgia, to go to a white school. Rarely did the issue of race come up.”

“Now, name a day it doesn’t come up,” he continued. “Differences in race, differences in sex, somebody doesn’t look at you right, somebody says something. Everybody is sensitive. If I had been as sensitive as that in the 1960s, I’d still be in Savannah.”

Here’s my favorite quote:

“The worst I have been treated was by northern liberal elites,” Thomas said. “The absolute worst I have ever been treated. The worst things that have been done to me, the worst things that have been said about me — by northern liberal elites, not by the people of Savannah, Georgia.”

Without further clarification, I would suggest that a good chunk of that criticism extends merely to the logic he uses in his opinions and their outcome.  That is fair game in my opinion, as it would be with any other Justice.  Justice Kennedy, for example, gets his share of criticism from religious organizations for his votes on same sex marriage and similar cases upholding privacy in sexual matters.  And don’t get me started on Justice Scalia!

The Atlantic is running an article called The Collapse of Big Law:  A Cautionary Tale for Big Med.  The article details how lawyers measure success in terms of money, not purely as a matter of greed, but in comparison to the competition.  Gone, apparently, are the days when doing something of value for society through law practice is a real metric.  The context of the article is the lack of jobs for recent law school graduates.  The rest of the article compares what’s happening in law to similar practices developing in the medical field.

I’ll give an anecdotal story about a law school application essay as related to me by the Admissions Director at one of the schools at which I have worked.  The Director told me that one student did not write an essay as such but drew a large dollar sign across the page.  I understand the applicant was admitted at least for being honest.  I have to believe there were other qualities that qualified the student for admission.  Anyone pulling that stunt today would be incredibly naive.  That shows how long ago I had that conversation.

Publishers Weekly reports that Apple lost its appeal at the Second Circuit on the limited issue of staying the order of Judge Denise Cote imposing the external compliance monitor on the company.  Apple has complained about Michael Bromwich, the appointee, being intrusive and expensive.  The article describes the Second Circuit’s order:

The court cited the government’s own statements that the monitor, Michael Bromwich, was “empowered to demand only documents relevant to his authorized responsibility” and to “interview Apple directors, officers, and employees” only on subjects relevant to his task. “We agree with that interpretation of the district court’s order,” the court held. “In addition, we take counsel’s statement as a formal representation that appellees also accept that interpretation.”

Oh well, better luck on the main appeal, or not, depending on one’s perspective.

Jonathan Band writes an interesting essay on the Future of Fair Use after Google Books in Project Disco.  That’s “Disco” as in disrupted competition.  Band wrote the amicus brief for the Library Copyright Alliance and was cited five times in Judge Chin’s decision.  The piece describes the ideas in the debate he had with Jon Baumgarten, former General Counsel of the Copyright Office.  I get the impression that the Authors Guild have an extremely limited view of fair use based on the exchange between the two.

And finally, ads in the Firefox browser?  ZDNet has the story. — Mark