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November 22, 2007

When will e-books become a platform for casebooks?

I have just finished reading this week's Newsweek cover story on the new e-book entry, Kindle.  Like Deven Desai at Concurring Opinions, I was intrigued.  Though I am not sure Kindle has the perfect business model or the ideal set of feature, I am sure that something akin to a wireless IPod for books is inevitable.  Many persons are already accustom to getting (and reading) periodical contents on-line.  I think the will to go digital with books already exists, all that's needed is an effective way.  (This recent Computerworld article suggests that Kindle "is the forerunner of a number of limited-purpose wireless devices that are expected to hit the market in the next few years.')

Ever the law geek, I was especially drawn to the idea of some kind of special e-book device to replace traditional casebooks.  Many students surely would pay a lot for one sleek device to replace all of their bulky casebooks, and an ideal device would also enable download of treatises, hornbooks and commercial outlines.  And casebook authors could readily provide integrated updates and supplements more quickly and efficiently than through print hard-copy.

The hiccup, of course, is the traditional casebook market model, which is based on traditional book publishers producing traditional hard-copy casebooks.  However, I sense that electronic content is already starting to break-down the traditional market model.  Here is hoping that publishers might get ahead of the curve by working with some tech companies to make this kind of innovation become a reality relatively soon. 

After learning about Kindle and other e-books in production, I really think the question is not whether, but rather when and how, the traditional casebook will go digital.

Posted by DAB

November 22, 2007 in Technology -- in the classroom | Permalink


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I think the real advance will come not when casebooks are made available in PDF or a similar format but when casebooks become the equivalent of mix tapes: Publishers offer a list of the edited cases from the book; faculty select the cases they plan to teach; and a PDF is produced with only the selected cases, along with the relevant introductory and note material. Students don't have to pay for material that won't be covered, and faculty can reorganize the existing material to fit the needs of their particular course.

Posted by: Laura Heymann | Nov 28, 2007 5:21:58 PM

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