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December 30, 2007

Another Perspective on the Kindle

After playing with my Kindle for slightly over a week, I have to disagree with some of my colleagues on this blog. (see here and here).  I do think that the Kindle has a strong future with the next generation of law books - at least with one segment of the law school population. 

I agree that this first generation Kindle has some deficiencies that warrant change prior to be adapted for law school casebooks.  Most noticeably I would appreciate the highlight function being colored yellow as opposed to just blocking the text. And although I really really (did I say really strong enough)appreciate the 10.3 ounces, I wouldn't mind a few more ounces to increase its size to the page of the average law school casebook. I also would like a built in back-light function and smaller tabs for the page forward and page back buttons, as I keep hitting them unintentionally.

But these deficiencies are minor, are likely to be corrected in the next generation Kindle, and the convenience it offers is incredible.  Having gone to law school in the pre-rolling bag days, I all too well remember carrying heavy law books to and from school.  And perhaps my gender is telling here, as I see the rolling bags being used by more women than men in the law school hallways - and rolling bags don't work well on stairs.  Is your law school more than one level, and who takes the stairs and who takes the elevators?

I am not sure that the Kindle will replace the law books, but I could easily see them as the holder of the casebook that is brought to class - perhaps along with the live code books used in some courses.  I guess I see the Kindle having a bright future with some law students, and I am hopeful that Amazon and law book publishers will build the alliance for those who are looking to replace heavy texts with a 10.3 ounce or slightly heavier device.

- ellen s. podgor

December 30, 2007 in Technology -- in general | Permalink


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I've had my Kindle since Dec. 4th and have installed an 8 GB SDHC High Capacity Memory Card on it giving me space for many thousands of books at the same time. I love my Kindle and find it much easier for me to read from it than from books made from dead trees. And since it uses reflected light unlike a laptop, I can use it in very bright light, even in direct sunlight if need be.

I went to Law School many years ago, but the Kindle could have provided me with all the State and Federal case law for at least my state, or perhaps for all 50 states at the same time. And of course for all different versions of Black's Law Dictionary, plus the special versions for family law, insurance law, etc. These books do not require illustrations, and are all text.

There are no more hand set type or lead slug line-o-type machines in use anhmore and all publishers have surely retained their digital source for all books published over a long time now. While the formats of these sources will have changed over the years, any decent computer programmer can write programs to do format conversions allowing these text to go directly into a Kindle.

But the Kindle offers one feature that is available no where else. Their search feature is the best in the business, as it searches across all books stored on your Kindle, and not just one book at a time.

Actally there is a business opportunity for West Publishing and others to make everything they offer available through the Kindle Store where lawyers and law students could buy just what they think they need. But if they miss one, it takes only a minute to download any that they now want. Or they could sell pre-loaded memory cards containing all the case law for an individual state plus federal plus all books like the BLD and other books that might be helpful.

Charles Wilkes, San Jose, Calif.

Posted by: Charles Wilkes | Dec 30, 2007 3:59:40 AM

Interesting... I can see what you're both saying about using the Kindle for static / reference materials.

What bugs me most about the Kindle, though, remains the idea that books are dead objects, even if they're no longer on dead trees. I would like to see more innovation in terms of approaching these texts as living communication nodes among communities of practice (whether practitioners, students, or whatever). See, for example, the gist of this article on ebooks: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2008/01/03/ebooks

Posted by: Gene Koo | Jan 8, 2008 2:15:26 PM

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