I just pre-ordered a copy of the new Aldrich Catalog Handbook of Fine Chemicals. After two editions with preposterous colors (teal and orange peel), they finally got it right: glorious crimson.
I don’t know about everyone else, but the Aldrich catalog ranks #1 on my list of the top desk references of all time. Vogel’s Handbook of Practical Organic Chemistry is #2, followed by March, Silverstein & Webster, and Jencks. While I’m increasingly using Web sites and databases (e.g. ISIS) to place orders, I can always count on the Aldrich catalog for FW, b.p., and density.
My chemistry lab partner from high school said that when he took sophomore organic chemistry here, Jacobsen told the entire class to go on the Web and request a copy of the Aldrich handbook. I bet the guys in Milwaukee were really pleased about having to ship a hundred of these 5-lb. monsters to Cambridge for students who didn’t need to order anything. That said, giving handbooks away as freebies probably makes good business sense. I’m always surprised at my fellow researchers’ loyalty to the company; they blindly order from Aldrich without looking at Alfa Aesar, TCI, or anyone else. A lot of times there’s a big difference in price, and I doubt that the quality is that far off. The only other example of chemical brand loyalty that comes to mind is organometallic chemists’ love of Strem. They either sell higher quality reagents or have an outstanding marketing department.