Is “Giving It Away” Good Business Strategy? An Interview with Nolo Vice President of Editorial Mary Randolph on her company’s progressive approach to legal publishing
Nolo was among the first trade publishers to include disks, and later CD-ROMs, in many of our books. The CDs may contain forms, audio or reference information that’s too bulky to be included in the book. This has been quite popular and is a great convenience for readers who need to prepare documents with the aid of our books.
… I would generally expect to see all publishers make better use of technology, both by including electronic media with their books and by offering links to up-to-date supplementary material online. Nolo concentrates on law, which, like science, changes all the time. Readers need the latest information, and they expect it to be instantly accessible online.
Extra: How do you feel about Open Access platforms that allow audiences immediate, free and unrestricted online access to digital material?
Randolph: All I can say is that at Nolo, we’ve always believed in giving away a lot of content. First, it’s because doing so is consistent with our mission of getting high-quality legal information to ordinary people. But we’re also convinced that if people get a taste of our material, they’ll see that we publish reliable, accessible, helpful legal information––and they’ll come back, and maybe buy something, the next time they run into a legal or business question.
Extra: What are your thoughts on services such as Google Book Search?
Randolph: Nolo was one of the first publishers to participate in Google Book Search, and unlike some publishers, we’ve supported the Google Print Library Project. We’ve found it to be a valuable tool for reaching out to people who might not find us in bookstores. Google Book can guide users to deep backlist or esoteric books they might not be able to find otherwise. Like many nonfiction publishers, we rely heavily on backlist sales. But because we update our backlist titles frequently to keep up with changing laws, search hits aren’t necessarily going to jeopardize book sales. People go beyond Google Book to find our revised editions to get the most up-to-date legal information.