Beginning Glossary of Publishing Terms

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Revised April 2013

A beginning librarian, charged with selecting and purchasing materials for a law library, may be flummoxed by all the unfamiliar words used by publishers and vendors. The following list of frequently used terms will be a good introductory course in "vendor-ese". Although some of these terms will already be familiar, it may, nonetheless, be a good reminder.

Approval Plan: Vendor assumes responsibility for selecting and supplying all materials that fit a predetermined profile. Return privileges are usually honored. Pay for only those items accepted.

Blanket Order: Library places an order for all publications from a particular publisher or vendor.

Blurb: Advertisement from publishers or vendors.

CALR (Computer-Assisted Legal Research): For law this category includes many resources, primary among them LEXIS and WESTLAW.

CD-ROM (Compact Disc, Read Only Memory): One 4 3/4 inch disc will hold up to 250,000 pages of text and graphics, which is equivalent to 500 books.

COM (Computer-Output-Microfilm): Technology whereby machine-readable data is converted to human-readable information on microfilm or fiche without first making a paper copy.

Continuations: A serial subscription that will continue until either it is inactive or canceled. Caution must be taken when ordering continuations because of the ongoing commitment to future budgets. Many sponsoring organizations put a limit on the amount a librarian may commit to a single purchase without approval from the sponsoring organization.

COUNTER Compliance: COUNTER is an acronym for Counting Online Usage of Networked Electronic resources. COUNTER is an international set of standards and protocols governing the recording and exchange of online usage data. The standards facilitate the recording and reporting of online usage statistics in a consistent, credible and compatible way. COUNTER Codes of Practice have been established with the goal of increasing the reliability and usability of online vendor usage statistics.

CRIV (Committee on Relations with Information Vendors): AALL committee charged with facilitating communication between information vendors and AALL's Executive Board and the general membership regarding provision of legal information in any format.

Depository: Academic law libraries may apply for government depository status, which allows them to receive and house primary government documents free of charge.

Duplicates or Dups: materials that have been determined unsuitable for the collection because there is a copy already in the collection, material has been superseded, or collection criteria has not been met.

E-Book: an electronic version of a print book or a born digital book. E-Books may be downloaded via the internet and read on a computer, tablet, e-reader, or other portable electronic device. E-Books may be published simultaneously with the print version of the book or scanned from an existing print version. E-Books are often made available in a proprietary format that is specific to a particular e-reader.

EDI: Electronic method for transferring acquisitions data, such as claims and orders.

Encumbrance: An amount allocated in the budget at the time materials are ordered. If no price can be located, librarians estimate cost on the basis of past purchases or using publications such as Margaret Maes Axtmann's annual Price Index for Legal Publications. An amount is also estimated for shipping and handling for each order and added to the cost of each title.

Firm Order: These orders are for separate items that will not be updated.

FTP: This method of electronic transfer is a means of acquiring data, which may be either free of provided for a subscription fee.

FTC Guides for the Law Book Industry: Born of complaints by librarians about publishing practices, these seventeen voluntary guides, promulgated by the Federal Trade Commission in 1976, were meant to inform publishers and vendors of the Commissions interpretation of relevant federal statutes. The Guides encourage but do not enforce adherence.

Interlibrary Loan (ILL): When titles are needed more quickly than purchasing allows, titles are out-of-print and impossible to locate, or, when copyright allows, titles must be copied, ILL may be the answer.

Internet: More and more legal material is available free or on a pay-by-use basis on Internet Web sites. Of particular value to law librarians are the sites sponsored by the federal government.

ISBN (International Standard Book Number): Assigned by the Library of Congress upon publication, these unique numbers allow for quick and easy identification of a monograph title.

ISSN (International Standard Serial Number): Assigned by the Library of Congress upon initial publication, these unique numbers allow for quick and easy identification of a serial title.

Jobber: See Supplier.

Looseleaf Services: Materials housed in binders that allow easy removal and insertion of individual pages. This format facilitates updating and supplementation that is usually included in a subscription. The advantage is that the library is receiving current information; the disadvantage is the high cost of purchasing and maintaining the sets.

MARC (Machine Readable Cataloging): A standardized format developed by the Library of Congress for identifying all elements of bibliographic information of a cataloging record so that each element can be uniquely recognized and manipulated by a computer. The format facilitated storage, retrieval, and editing of bibliographic records by an automated system.

Membership: Libraries receive much valuable material, not otherwise available for purchase, as a result of memberships in societies or organizations.

Microforms: This high density, information storage media comes in several formats, most commonly microfilm and microfiche. For statistical purposes, film and fiche have been equated to bound volumes:six fiche equals one volume equivalent, and each film equals five volume equivalents.

Monograph: A book or treatise written about a particular subject meant to be a single stand-along purchase.

Negative Option: A clause in a sales contract, as for a series of books or records, that provides that merchandise will be sent periodically to the subscriber unless he or she notifies the company in writing that it is not wanted.

On Approval: Telemarketers, publisher's representatives, and published advertising tout the advantages of requesting materials on approval. Because an invoice accompanies these materials when they arrive, however, it is easy for clerks to become confused and assume the titles were ordered. Materials may be stamped before the error is discovered:then, of course, they are no longer on approval but have been purchased. Every bit as dangerous as library clerks are law professors and attorneys who request materials on approval and then misplace them. Again an inadvertent purchase has been made. Avoid on approval unless you are able to monitor arrival, evaluation and return to sender.

Package Plan: A fee is paid annually and a vendor supplies all titles in a pre-approved plan when published. An alternate pay-as-you go plan is possible for some package plans.

Pocket Parts: Form of supplementation designed to slip into a pocket at the back of a bound volume. Usually these are superseded when a new pocket part arrives.

Publisher: One whose business is the publishing of reading material.

Rare Book: Unusual, old books that are considered valuable due to unique qualities. Gifts or purchases from rare book dealers are major sources.

Renewal: All varieties of continuations may come up for annual renewal, though some publishers prefer the pay-as-you-go method because they don't know how many supplements will be published during the year.

Serial: A publication in any medium issued in successive parts bearing numerical or chronological designations and intended to be continued indefinitely.

Shared Electronic Resource Understanding (SERU): Shared Electronic Resource Understanding or SERU is a NISO best practice that eliminates the requirement for a license agreement when purchasing an electronic resource.  It also contains standard business practices.  Both libraries and vendors can join SERU.  For more information on SERU please visit

SISAC: Scanable barcode on all issues of a serial, identifying volume and number.

Standing Order: Publisher sends all publications on specified titles or subjects. Orders are paid for individually.

Supplier: A book dealer who buys from the publisher and sells to a consumer. Also known as vendor or jobber. Working with a supplier minimizes the time-consuming procedures associated with item-by-item ordering. Unfortunately some publishers refuse to work with a vendor.

Supplementation: Legal books may be supplemented in a number of ways: periodic pocket parts, looseleaf releases, stand-alone paperbacks, or new editions. Currently some sets are augmented or supplemented with discs or CD-ROMs.

Telemarketing: A particularly odious form of solicitation. Usually the salesperson asks the librarian to receive a title on approval.

Treatise: Single volumes or sets (often regularly updated) that describe and analyze a limited subject area of the law. May be scholarly, practical or a combination of the two. Some of the better textbooks may be classed as treatises.

Unsolicited Shipments: Despite FTC regulations, some publishers and vendors continue to send unordered materials, often insisting that their action is a public service since the new title is related to another title actually ordered.

Vendor: See Supplier.

Vendor Liaison: The vendor liaison serves as the AALL's representative for fostering knowledge and information sharing between the law library community and legal information vendors. This individual works to develop programs or initiatives for sharing expertise and creating a dialogue about library-vendor issues and to communicate about legal information policy issues from the law librarian perspective. For more information on the Vendor Liaison, please visit

Verifying Titles: Checking titles on various systems to clarify exactly what a title is. Titles are often similar, or parts of services have been cataloged individually, or titles have been changed.

Web Site: A location on the Internet accessible by inputting a unique address. Law-related databases on the Internet, both commercial and government-sponsored, are proliferating. All librarians involved in public service should become more familiar with these sources.

Lovisa Lyman, Brigham Young University Law Library
Provo, Utah