Friday, July 17, 2015

ProView Professional: Thomson Reuters Promises eBooks Which "Break the Book Paradigm"

It is no secret that I am not fond of ebook technology. Back in 2011 I described my concerns in a post eBooks: Why are Publishers Pouring Digital Content into 19th Century Wineskins? My personal reading includes novels, biographies  and histories in eBook format, but law books are different. I read monographs that are intended for sequential reading. Law books are evolving works which
require an iterative series of interactions by the researcher and continuous updating by the publisher. Many key  legal resources are massive multi-volume treatises with interconnecting parts which were broken into units called "volumes" due to the practical constraints of print publishing. A "volume" has no meaning in a digital world.  "Therein lies the rub." So it was rather brave of Thomson Reuters to ask me to look at their new ProView platform. But they began the conversation by alluding to my "Wineskins" post and assured me that they had addressed several of my major concerns. According to Scott Nelson, Head of Print and Advanced Media at Thomson Reuters, the new strategy is focused on "breaking the book paradigm" in order to make eBooks more powerful resources for lawyers. There are currently over 1,000 titles available in ProView Professional. All US legal titles will be added.

According to Thomson Reuters, ProView is "alive and well"  and they have been investing in creating the fundamental building blocks for a new eBook strategy. The.ProView Professional Reader was built to work on all standard computer and tablet platforms and to work when lawyers are offline. In addition, this will be TR's global eBook platform, which will be used in all legal and professional publishing units in all countries around the globe.

Until now, eBook solutions have been focused on providing access to individual lawyers. The initial release of ProView didn't address the logistic al challenges which law firm librarians face in managing eBook access to hundreds and maybe thousands of lawyers. Last week Thomson Reuters announced two new library solutions. They also introduced new features and some of them are quite significant. Some of them may even get me to change my mind about eBooks for lawyers.

The New ProView Professional Platform
ProView Professional Features:
  • Powerful and fast search capability.
  • Titles can be sorted by jurisdiction.
  • Navigate the table of contents
  • Print, email or create PDF documents from Proview
  • Multiple editions of the same title can be selected or searched.
ProView IP Access for Large Libraries - Breaking the Volume Paradigm

ProView Internet Protocol access offers enterprise wide access to all lawyers in an organization. This approach addresses my fundamental concern about early eBook platforms.

Search across all volumes and all titles!!!! Until now eBook platforms have only allowed searching of individual volumes. This feature alone would cause me to take a serious look at an eBook solution.

Personalization - Individual users will be able to use all of the personalization features including highlighting, adding notes and bookmarking. These notes will transfer to future editions.

Offline Access - Lawyers will be able to download volumes in advance when they know they will need to work offline.

Automatic Updating - Content will automatically be updated for lawyers accessing books using a browser. Lawyers who have downloaded a book will be prompted to download the update.

 Easier to find books- The platform presents the library as a stack of cards available for an individual account.The default display is alphabetical order. Titles can be sorted by jurisdiction.

Dynamic Search Results - One of the features I especially like is the keyword searching. The platform shows the progress of a  searche  and dynamically displays and re-ranks results moving the most relevant titles to the top of the results list. See screenshot below

Keyword searching across multipe titles
Add Notes and Highlights
ProView LMS ( Library Management Systems)

I totally agree that there is value in listing all of the eBooks a firm subscribes to in the firms catalog. However I would do the same thing with the IP authenticated books and allow lawyers to link from the catalog into the titles from the catalog.

Thomson Reuters indicated that there are still libraries that want to manage eBooks in the old "analog" fashion... lending one volume at a time, having circulation periods, placing holds. I am personally baffled by this. I believe that lawyers have a strong preference for "one click" solutions. Nonetheless I applaud the fact the Thomson Reuters is working with a major library management system provider.

ThomsonReuters also announced that they will be integrating ProView with the EOS library management system from Sirsi Dynex. According to the press release "The integrated library solution provides a unified search that enables users to see ProView eBook and physical titles together in the same catalog. Users also can see real-time availability. Library managers can quickly and easily sync thousands of titles across their library, and automatically download the latest ProView title information."

eLibraries vs eBooks
The success or failure of the eBook solution may in fact hinge on pricing more than technology. Thomson Reuters Proview Professional appears  to have overcome many of the technical obstacles of the first ProView platform.  Law firm budgets remain tight. Lawyers have not embraced eBooks as quickly as they embraced online databases. Many firms have implemented eTreatise libraries or "non-billable treatise zones" within their Westlaw contracts. Will the new personalization and mobility features in ProView Professional be sufficiently compelling to change lawyer behavior and to justify the additional cost to add an eBook version of the same content? Is Thomson Reuters bulking up the eBook platform because law firms have become focused on cutting their real estate costs ... and their physical libraries. I previously suggested that eBooks may be the "eight track tape of the 21st Century" but the ProView Professional Platform has come a long way. With the ProView LMS and IP solutions, Thomson Reuters has made it a lot easier for large law firms to manage eBook collections... but the every Library Director still needs to wonder..."If they buy the platform, will the lawyers  "buy into" an eBook solution?"

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