Magazine article Information Today

West Aggressively Pursues Electronic Publishing Market

Magazine article Information Today

West Aggressively Pursues Electronic Publishing Market

Article excerpt

Not since Volkswagens, hoola-hoops, or roller blades has a company geared up to produce a product line like West Publishing's new Desktop Practice Systems. Texas Family Law Practice Forms, Federal Jury Instructions, California Litigation - Pleadings, and Minnesota Rules of Court - State and Federal are just a few of the over 150 new titles that West has produced since the beginning of 1993.

For many companies the development of new products is at the very least a slow and cautious process. There are questions about customer interest, the market, the costs of producing and promoting the product, and then the obvious problem of actually creating the product.

When the product involves technology, the concerns and production process become doubly complex. Even though market information indicates there is a need for products like these, few companies are willing to risk the resources to develop them. Not to West Publishing.

One hundred and fifty new titles in less than a year is by any publisher's standards prolific. And when each of these new titles involves a new kind of information technology, the industry begins to take note.

"Attorneys are ready to put personal computers to practical use," explains Vance Opperman, West Publishing's new president, "but most publishers have not yet produced any practical software. West is the only company offering an entire line of compatible disk products to automate forms and document drafting. These and the hundreds that are planned for future release will make law firm practice more efficient, more profitable and more convenient."

West is particularly well suited to pursue this business. For over 100 years they have been a legal publisher, growing to what has become one of the world's largest. The company has plenty of experience publishing law books, and legal information, and they have a wide variety of different source titles.

West is also enjoying one of the most technologically innovative periods in their history. In 1992 they introduced Westlaw is Natural (WIN), a new natural language search engine that was virtually unlike anything else in the industry. The new search engine has won universal acclaim, with West's competitors scrambling to come up with something similar of their own.

Over the last year West has also begun to aggressively pursue the CD-ROM market, publishing over a dozen new titles in just the past six months, with many more scheduled for publication in the next year. And they have produced these products in much the same manner as they have pursued other products, developing them in-house.

PREMISE, the CD-ROM engine that drives West's CD-ROM products, was initially the product of a joint venture between Wang Laboratories and West Publishing. A couple of years ago West took over the entire project, and now PREMISE joins a growing list of proprietary West software.

So one of the largest legal publishers in the world is an innovator in producing good, marketable products and services based on new technology. West's Desktop Practice Systems consist of document assembly applications, \FAST (Fast Access Searchable Text) disks, and Express Forms.

Curious about these new titles, Information Today examined the electronic version of West's new Federal Jury Instructions, one of their document assembly applications. We found a product that was easy to install, easy to use, and manageable for just about any kind of PC.

Many of these products involve the value added process of producing existing West manual titles or information in electronic form. This process has two benefits: information is extremely manageable, and codes, rules and forms are available without having to be re-keyed. With respect to the \FAST disk products the manageability factor involves a variety of features that makes the information contained in these titles phenomenally easier to use.

Some of these features include:

* A table of contents. …

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