In Brief ... Legal tomes migrate to the Web & CD

In Brief ... Legal tomes migrate to the Web & CD

Legal publisher Butterworths Australia is using Open Market's suite of publishing solutions, Folio, to stake a claim as one of the world's largest publishers of original legal works in electronic format.

Profits are now flowing in the three-year-old electronic publishing division at legal publisher Butterworths, said Evan Predavec, the company's publishing director.

The company has more than 100 publications available online and just under 100 on CD-ROM. Its secret to profitable electronic publishing is to edit the manuscript once onto a media-neutral database; this material can then be distributed on paper, CD-ROM, or online depending on the customer.

The team of 18 has now built an array of titles with more than five million hypertext links and more than 10 gigabytes of material.

The hypertext links are not generated by computer software but by legal editors. They ensure that each link is valid from a legal research viewpoint, in contrast to automatic search engine indexing which cannot make intuitive decisions about context and meaning.

Contrary to popular myth, Mr Predavec said electronic publishing is not cheaper than paper-based tomes. Butterworths has found it is more expensive to publish electronically as more people are employed to cross-index and check the hyperlinks. However, these added expenses are balanced by the flexibility to respond almost instantly to customers' needs.

Butterworths' next electronic publishing offering will be individually customised subscriptions for lawyers. For example, a lawyer who concentrates on the financial implications of family law will receive relevant information through the electronic subscription material.

Mr Predavec foresees the electronic revolution spreading to the courts within three years. Barristers will appear in court with their voice-activated laptops and be able to call up precedents with verbal commands.

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