Monday, January 31, 2005

Boycott CRC Information Holdings

Eric's Commentary on the Shutdown of MathWorld

Once upon a time CRC, the Chemical Rubber Company, published books of tables and reference material for chemists and scientists. Alas, that company is gone. It's name has been taken by a foul and parasitic entity; a form of demonic possession that attacks publicly traded companies. This web page explains why we need to stop buying anything from CRC's ownership:
I have had to conclude, to my sorrow, that CRC--perhaps like many other publishers in our era of wild corporate acquisitions and conglomerations--is no longer managed by people who understand and love books, authors, and readers.

The parent company of CRC, Information Holdings Inc., appears unashamed to treat information as a commodity to be exploited for short-term, bottom-line cash with no concern for long-term, strategic planning. The goal of the CRC representatives seemed to be monomaniacal: to squeeze from Wolfram Research and from me as much instant and short-term cash as possible, using the lawsuit as a lever.

How self-defeating in an era of rapid technological change! Apparently uninterested in looking forward and building good future business strategies, here are publishers focusing instead on how to squeeze greater quantities of immediate cash from old 'properties.'

I have come to realize how unusual it is to be working for a company that is run by people who still enjoy the core activities for which the company was founded. Very early in the lawsuit, a Wolfram Research response to the lawsuit mentioned that Wolfram Research has chosen to remain privately held in order to be free from the obligation to outside stockholders, who appear so often to focus corporations inordinately on short-term financial results. Wolfram Research's principals believe that they can take the long and broad view of the corporation's mission, as they could not if they had to satisfy stock analysts and uninvolved stockholders.

The behavior of CRC's representatives this last year has been, for me, convincing evidence of the wisdom of Wolfram Research's strategy. The people at my company believe in what they do, make money doing it, and have fun along the way. I didn't see much fun among the CRC people we dealt with.
Update: This affair first gained attention five years ago. But that was before blogs became popular ...

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