Should a specialist series include all the most important cases within its specialist area, or should it merely supplement the coverage already provided by the general series?
When we launched the Business Law Reports in 2007, one of the frequently asked questions was:
Can you please tell me what overlap, if any, there is between Bus LR and the other
The answer we gave was:
Part of the reason for launching the new series was to be able to extend the overall number of cases we could report, given that the
This prediction turned out to be a hostage to fortune. One of our subscribers, drawing our attention to this particular FAQ, pointed out that last year (2009) the actual overlap was rather larger. Of 91 full cases, no fewer than 29 also appeared in the Weekly Law Reports, and of these 15 later reappeared in the Law Reports.
There has always (and inevitably) been an overlap between the Weekly Law Reports and the Law Reports, since all cases in the official series have previously appeared in volumes 2 or 3 of WLR, and the overlap is reflected not only in the way the two series are priced when taken as a bundle, but also in the fact that subscribers can opt to bind only volume 1 of the Weeklies, thus saving shelf space.
Although the same is not the case in relation to a specialist series such as Bus LR, I don’t think anyone is suggesting that we are simply trying to milk subscribers twice for the same material. Far from it. The fact is, some such overlap is inevitable, because the most important cases in a specialist area of law will also be the sort of cases that ought to appear in a general series. It’s just that the amount of such overlap is unpredictable.
The alternative might be to leave out from the specialist series those cases which are of sufficiently general interest or importance to appear in a general series such as WLR. But you can’t assume everyone will subscribe to or have access to the general series, and subscribers to a specialist series are entitled to expect it to cover the most important cases in that area. That is certainly the approach of all other publishers of specialist series. And indeed, one of our aims in launching the Business Law Reports was to provide members of an increasingly specialised profession with the more targeted informational tools that we understood they required.
What would be more worrying would be if there were cases which we hadn't published, or hadn't room for, because of material which was duplicated elsewhere. But as editor of the series I am not aware of any such cases, and we do receive quite a few suggestions from judges, practitioners and academics. If we left out the cases which might be duplicated elsewhere, the result would probably be a thinner publication, so in a sense our subscribers are getting bonus pages rather than missing out.
However, with shelf space at a premium, the extra two or three hundred duplicated pages can be a problem for some libraries, especially if the situation is replicated over a number of years. We are always being told that the printed volume is dead, but the expected decline in paper subscriptions is far less steep than the rapid increase in electronic access would suggest. It seems many of us still want the best of both worlds. But in the case of online access, the extent of any overlap between series is perhaps neither so apparent nor (if it really is) so much of a problem.
As editor I remain firmly of the view that my role is to produce a series which includes, for all its subscribers, all the relevant reportable cases within its main areas of specialism (broadly speaking Company, Commercial and Intellectual Property law). Apart from the cases which we report in full, there are the Bus LR Digest reports, which summarise with relevant extracts a further 30 or so cases each year. In view of the reasonableness of our subscription prices, the small risk of some duplication seems worth putting up with. But feedback is always useful and I would welcome the views of other subscribers.
For details of the current part of Bus LR: see http://www.lawreports.co.uk/Publications/newbuslr.htm