Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pricing Wrong for Black's Law Dictionary on iPhone

If you work in the legal industry and you're an iPhone user, you've probably picked up on the fact that Black's Law Dictionary is now available for the iPhone or iPod touch. You may also be aware that West released the new application at a price of $49.99.

This post is not intended as a feature review. For that, I suggest you link on over to Jeff Richardson's iPhone JD blog for his comments which went up this morning.

What I'm curious about is the price point chosen. I think it's too high, and not because West doesn't deserve to make a profit. In fact, I think they've missed profitability equation on this new product entirely. Let me explain why.

As Connie Crosby points out in the comments on this Slaw post, a firm that spends a couple hundred dollars on legal dictionaries isn’t going to increase their budget to thousands just because we are now able to tether a digital copy to a smart phone. If you price the print edition and iPhone edition the same, you are inevitably asking for comparisons to be made. It forces an either-or decision.

That's not what West wants (or at least not what I think West wants...). The goal should be to avoid media format competition at all costs; especially when the possibility exists of selling their IP twice, once in each format.

West could have skipped the whole ‘firm budget’ equation and moved this purchase into being a personal expense just by lowering the price point below $30. Had they lowered the price to a discretionary level, many lawyers would skip the firm paying altogether and picked up the bill themselves.

The key, I think, is to create new non-competing markets. West is far better off, both short and long term, with $25 apps on every lawyer’s smart phone, over shared copies of print products. Any firm out there, even a two-lawyer operation, will logically make the decision to resource share when possible - thus reducing the number of purchased copies. This part's simple math - create the demand for a lower-cost personal edition, and you create a larger & more lucrative market. Moving shared product purchases to personal product purchases is just good business for West.

But equally important to the profit equation is to not let digital content - iPhone apps included - exist only for business consumption. Lawyers are also consumers, and individual purchases made outside of work will be a growing market for legal publishers - but only if they are priced low enough. Price it too high, and the personal copy becomes a questionable decision.

Additionally, if law firms aren’t picking up the tab, they will still see value (for the short term) in keeping a few print copies around. For West, that means an opportunity to sell the same content in multiple formats. It also means the original print market isn't disrupted by forcing it to compete for the same purchase dollars.

My apologies to my fellow law librarians. I had my machevelian hat on in writing today's post. There's a fallout to this type of content pricing for libraries, both positive & negative, but that's better left for another day, another post... and unfortunately, it kinda brings back memories of the print/CD-Rom days, ie. potentially paying twice for modest amounts of innovation. Group subscription pricing models will inevitably come along, but when is difficult to say. Until that time comes, however, legal pubishers like West are simply missing out on a window of business opportunity.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

New BC PLE Portal: Clicklaw

While I've been admittedly abscent in the past couple weeks, I was very happy to see the launch of the new BC Public Legal Education portal called Clicklaw.

Led by friends over at Courthouse Libraries BC, this new project gathers information and resources from no less than 24 participating BC organizations. If there's an existing guide or helpful publication located on one of those websites, it's probably now profiled on Clicklaw.

The site is still in beta, but looks to have the framework to evolve into a true portal for BC legal content. And given the audience, which is clearly defined as the general public, I thought the work done on the site's navigation was excellent. There's a good mix of iconic and textual navigation elements, and the language used is equally clear.

Clicklaw also has a page dedicated to their future plans, which include more common questions to BC legal topics, non-English language translations, a Google maps integration, and embeddable widgets.

Congratulations to everyone involved!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Vancouver Law Day 2009

Saturday, April 25th is Vancouver Law Day, the local incarnation of an event that's been held nationally for more than twenty-five years. Law Day celebrates the signing of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and its goal is to provide the public with opportunities to "learn about the law, the legal profession and the legal institutions that form the cornerstones of our Canadian democracy".

The theme of this year's Law Day is "Access to Justice: Public Confidence in the Justice System".

In Vancouver, a full schedule of events is planned, including a citizenship ceremony, a mock trial, free law classes, and a public forum moderated by favourite Ian Hanomansing. (Keynote speaker from VALL's 20 Anniversary back in November )

Law Day is the one day within Law Week 2009 in which activities are held in 12 cities around the province. Dial-a-Lawyer, essay and speech competitions, courthouse tours, and a fun run are just some of the events planned. Displays and presentations will be given by dozens of groups ranging from the BC CBA to CLE to the VPD (their "The Real CSI" is sure to be a popular demonstration).

According to Law Week 2009 volunteer Vickie Hsieh, Law Day is "an excellent way for the public to learn about the role that lawyers and the judiciary serve in guaranteeing an independent and unbiased judicial system".

More info about Vancouver Law Day & Law Week are available at

(Incidentally, Law Day in Ontario has some cool events planned too, especially for students: "So You Think You Can Sue" looks like a lot of fun!)

Friday, April 03, 2009

Quickscribe Manual Updates for March

There were two Quickscribe manual updates in March:
Don't forget: daily updates to BC statutes and regulations are available at

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