Monday, February 02, 2009

Print Law Reviews

Many law libraries are having to confront serious budget issues as a result of the economic recession. I don't know any library that is totally immune from financial pressures. Some libraries have dropped subscriptions to print law reviews, knowing that they are made available fairly quickly through LexisNexis and Westlaw, and are eventually available through HeinOnline as well. We haven't yet made the decision to cut print law reviews, although we have stopped binding them as a cost-cutting measure and because preservation issues do not loom so large when we have access to the law reviews over reliable electronic databases. A new study by Ross E. Davies, editor in chief of the Green Bag and a professor at George Mason University School of Law, is available from the Social Science Research Network. Professor Davies's purpose was to document whether some of the leading law reviews' circulations had declined, and he looked at their circulation figures over time. While some law reviews did comply with the requirement (including Harvard Law Review, whose circulation fell from 8,760 in 1979-80 (about the point at which LexisNexis and Westlaw began including law reviews in their databases) to 2,610 in 2007-08), he found that a number of law reviews were not complying with the U.S. Postal Service requirements to publish their circulation numbers. There is a pithy article in today's issue of Inside Higher Ed that discusses Professor Davies' study and speculates as to why the law reviews might be reluctant to disclose their circulation figures. "Does the underreporting of the numbers reflect an 'unwillingness ... to confront the possibility that a drop in circulation might be connected to a drop in influence or status[?]' Davies wonders." He also questions whether it is possible that the influence of law reviews is growing because of their wide availability in electronic format, but concludes that it is impossible to know. Given the decline in subscriptions to print law reviews and the well-known preference of users for information in electronic formats, wouldn't it make sense for law schools to publish their law reviews exclusively on the Internet at no charge?


Betsy McKenzie said...

There have actually been a number of discussions now about the Death of the Law Review. The interesting thing about them all is that the reviews have kept publishing through it all. Some have moved onto the web, such as those at Duke. Others continue doggedly in print. Regardless, I don’t think a single law review has actually folded up and gone away that I can name.

Some of the “Death” articles are speaking about the death of law reviews in print; others are viewing them as being superseded by newer forms of communication, such as blogs. Here are some links to various articles about the so-called death of the law review.

Last Writes: Reassessing the law review in the age of cyberspace, by Prof. Bernard Hibbitts

Yesterday Once More: Skeptics, scribes and the demise of the law review, by Prof. Bernard Hibbitts

Blog by Atty. Stephen Rosenberg, Boston ERISA Law (see below for the full URL)

Blog by Prof. Jim Chen, Jurisdynamics

James Milles said...

Actually, specialized subject-area law journals shut down all the time. Betsy is probably right, though, that no law school's primary journal has shut down its print edition--yet.

Have you seen the Alley Insider blog post suggesting that the cost of print distribution of the New York Times is much less than if the Times simply sent every subscriber a free Kindle?

Anonymous said...

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Attiq Ur Rehman said...

I think this post is right up to some extent. The global recession effects all the area. And their are also effective by the libraries as well.