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LexisNexis has a long history innovation of publishing formats, from the Mead Data Centre through looseleaf to online delivery. One of our Lexis founding fathers Jerome Rubin was part of the collective of brains that came up with e-ink that led to the eBook revolution. His e-ink company produced the book-like screens used in the Kindle, Nook and other handsets. As LexisNexis UK releases eBooks of its texts and handbooks, why does this not feel like the all embracing moment of change we read in the press or hear from the wider publishing industry?
The media and industry buzz underlying the eBook ‘poster child’ is around the concept of digitizing print assets, and emerging online revenue models driven by the rapid adoption of ebooks. Now everyone is trying to apply the eBook success story to all types of publishing whether it fits the format or not. But we've seen a digitization before haven’t we? The long running Google dispute with American publishers due to the search giant’s attempt to ‘index’ the world’s literature heritage in the Google Books project came from Google’s proposal to capture and index the entire world’s canon of books in c 2004. Publishers are seeing (or being forced to see) the opportunity to sell book units via the web, through Amazon (despite Amazon’s publishing intent) and on web services and online subscriptions. This is a brave new world indeed.
But really THAT brave or THAT new? LexisNexis first went online with its “print heritage” in 1997 with the first NET Books on Screen (NetBos) services (UK cases had gone online on the Lexis services in 1979). LexisNexis UK had over 70 titles on those services by the early 2000s and had dealt with many of the issues of “digitization” before Google Books was even a “innovation idea” on a Palto Alto whiteboard. The issues were both technical in how to manage content electronically to feed print and online but also the cultural and financial challenges of being the first out there whilst others were trading on historical models of print distribution. LexisNexis achieved full digitisation in the early 2000s, which makes the current buzz around this in the publishing world seem very old skool. The introduction of LexisLibrary in 2004 continued the delivery of online texts, ranging from encyclopaedic works, to textbooks, to looseleafs with their update issues consolidated into the text in real time, to a present day collection of over 200 works and texts fully searchable, indexed and integrated with key primary sources, available online 24/7.
Seeing the current scramble of publishers to digitize and look for new “eBook” or online models feels almost quaint for those of us who have been doing this for 15 years and counting. For LexisNexis, the eBook is another format with which to provide our digitised content, not the revolution of actually moving from print to electronic that it is to other content providers. At times we forget our culture of innovation and being “ahead of the curve”.
A LexisNexis user can search from one box hundreds of legal texts, have the results filtered against the same legal terms, link between texts, download and offline PDFs of the text to mobile devices and ‘dropboxes’ and upload passages to their Kindles. The addition of the eBook solution is an additional way for LexisNexis to meet customer needs using the digitization efforts of the late 1990s and it compliments other electronic streams lawyers and tax practitioners have grown used to over the past 15 years.
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