Why Law Schools and Publishers Need to Adopt an eBook Model

As we’ve seen, the law school model of teaching is a disaster, especially in this crashed lawyer economy. Too many law students exits school still as students, having zero to slight practical legal experience.

The problem, as I see it, is in the methods implemented or encouraged by the hundreds of ABA-approved (and not-so-approved) law schools. While the world has changed significantly in the past 20 years (realize that 20 years ago was 1992), law school, for the most part has remained a institution of “I speak, you listen” “practitioners.”

The same is true for the book world. While the iPad, Android tablets, and Amazon Kindle are almost synonymous with books, law schools, professors, and publishers, insist on the paper-and-money-wasting schedule of physical books. I know, regardless of your acumen for paper, every law student was frustrated by the fact that you purchase a textbook at the start of the semester, and it meets its demise before buy back time.

There are better methods, and law schools need to force their suppliers to implement the strategies and cost-savings plans. I’m sure, like Amazon obliterated the in-store book experience, publishers (and university bookstores) worry that their existence hinges on maintaining a print format. That’s simply not the case.

Admittedly, while I don’t know the ins-and-outs of casebook publication, I don’t really care, when I can gather the same content by searching Google, Fastcase, or Westlaw, and pull the same case and hundreds of similar cases from my sources. Casebooks are just “edited” versions of the original, which for some may only cause confusion.

iPhoneJD reviewed a number of digital books, including this recent review of the hallowed Bluebook app for iOS. These books are produceable in digital format, function much like the physical system, and can be sold for similar prices. So why not provide students with a digital copy of your book?

And law schools, why not provide me with a tablet to store and access the materials on? After all, I’m sure you can find a way to “give” students their tablets with their registration and enrollment. Law schools should eliminate draconian “no computers in the class” rules, and adopt policies that favor technology, innovation, critical thinking, and practical use of modern-day advances. Trust me, eventually your alumna will praise your innovation.

The truth (according to The Droid Lawyer) is publishers can easily provide, and law schools can easily adopt, eBooks  for high-end or graduate environments, and still maintain a traditional book environment. Students will favor and appreciate the former, as opposed to the latter plethora of heavy and outdated resources, but the problem is, once you start allowing Amazon to compete on the hallowed turf, schools lose money.

So what do you think? Are we miles away from eBooks in law school, or is it right around the corner? How quickly do you think any adoption would occur?


4 Responses to Why Law Schools and Publishers Need to Adopt an eBook Model

  1. Free ebboks are available for law faculty and students at the eLangdell Press. A project of the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI), eLangdell provides downloads of Federal rules, casebooks, and chapters in multiple formats in cluding .pub, .mobi, and .pdf. While some of the fed rules books have been avaialble for over a year, we only published our first complete casebooks last spring, so adoption is just beginnning. Feedback on the books has been positive and we are adding more titles in more subjects this fall. For details see http://elangdell.cali.org/.

    • There’s one problem with your model…it’s FREE. We could never have something that works, and is accessible to all, that’s just nonsense (subtle hint of sarcasm). Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

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Jeff Taylor

I’m just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I’m also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.