Since the late 1980s, LexisNexis has been publishing electronic books on floppy disk, on CD and online through LexisLibrary. These are sophisticated ebooks containing links through to cases and legislation as well as other text resources. What has changed in recent years is the rise of the mobile device. Through conversations with our customers and market research analyses from 2008 onwards we realised print was at the cusp of a major shift: mobility was at an all-time high and there was a growing prevalence of e-readers and ebooks for personal reading. In July 2010 LexisNexis launched its first ebooks programme.
LexisNexis ebooks are available in ePub format, an open-source format that allows lawyers to quickly and effectively find the relevant information needed within current LexisNexis book content, whether they have access to the internet or not, or whether they use a portable or tablet device or not. A number of core requirements have been instrumental in our ebooks offering. First, a true ebook needs to be device-agnostic. It must function on different operating systems (PC and Apple iOS) and different devices (keyboard, touch-screen etc) – lawyers told us they wanted to be able to access ebooks on a variety of devices, depending on whether they were in court, travelling, or researching at their desk. Secondly, lawyers want to be able to use the e-readers they’re using for their personal ebooks – not to have to switch from a generic e-reader in order to read ebooks from LexisNexis. Thirdly, the reading experience should not be inhibited in any way – lawyers want to be able to print, copy and paste, and email relevant sections to a client. We then turned these needs into technology requirements to provide LexisNexis ebooks in a format that enables them to be read on a variety of devices (personal computers, smartphones, tablets and dedicated e-reader devices) with no new software to learn. We implemented social digital rights management by watermarking the file with a user’s personal details – a less intrusive form of DRM – in order to ensure ebooks can be downloaded on up to five personal devices. By following these core requirements we believe we’ve been able to offer our customers the greatest flexibility.
We’ve made great progress with this format to date. A number of magic circle law firms are already seeing the benefit of adopting an ebooks solution. We’ve seen new customers to LexisNexis – customers who have not previously purchased our print or online content; customers swapping from hard copy to “e” and customers adopting an “e” component to complement an existing online subscription or hard copy.
We’ve also seen certain practice areas where demand is greater than others. Demand tends to be highest where there is a higher proportion of court time and out of office time for travel and client meetings. We’ve also added a number of civil and criminal titles to our ebooks schedule to meet the growing demand from government, judges and court officers.
LexisNexis ebooks – phase 2
We’re now gearing up for a second phase in our ebook strategy to deliver customers the content and capabilities they need most. This includes offering additional formats (not only books) in a mobile, digital format and an enhanced user experience. Lawyers can already write notes and mark up important passages for printing or emailing to a client; use the hyperlinks and tables of contents to jump quickly and easily around the text. Now, what lawyers are telling us they really want to be able to do is share their annotations, sync bookmarks and annotations between devices and online, always access the most up to date content, preserve annotations through the updating process and search across multiple content sets; all this made easier to do if a publisher designs its own app.
ebook apps for tablets are particularly well suited to books, but eventually lawyers will want to be able to access all their content on whatever device and e-reader happens to be in front of them, with all their personalisation features synced up. A lawyer will not want to use a separate ebook app to read each publisher’s content. Apple is retaining its dominant position in the market and will continue to do so through 2013/14, but Android’s market share is growing and the backing of any one device or platform is a risky strategy for any publisher to pursue. So, we’re exploring various options and thoroughly assessing various technologies. We know what our core customer imperatives are; we just need to deliver them – trusted content always available in a digital format.
In the US LexisNexis has partnered with OverDrive to deliver a new digital library – much like lending physical books. Over the coming months we’ll be assessing the benefit of launching this programme outside the US.
Victoria Taylor is a Publisher at LexisNexis.
Editors’ note. This article is part of a series on digital products from publishers large and small. More will follow. Ideas? Contact email@example.com.