Sunday, January 06, 2013

More about e-books

All this chat about e-books is specially of interest because I have just been chatting with several publishers of e-books for legal casebooks, Foundation Press and CALI, here at the AALS conference in New Orleans. I also recently saw a demonstration about the H2O publisher for e-case books from the Berkman Center at Harvard. H2O and CALI's E-Langdell series are free to students, open source books that can be freely edited by adopting professors, which make them truly unusual and very interesting.

But I understand that at least the Foundation Press folks seem to be having an uphill battle with adoption. They charge for their books, though I am not sure if they charge the same rate for the e-case book as for a print book. By now I am a little unclear what model they are using, since I had a long conversation with two different people about their books. I think they may be leasing the books to students who then keep the book for a 6 month or year period. The book is thus less expensive and the lease period is like selling the book back to the bookstore (except that you "get the money back" up front by not paying as much in the first place.")

I understand one of the problems is getting professors to remember to specify to the bookstores that e-book version is an option when they send in their book orders to bookstores each semester. It would save students money to specify that Prof. Bruntwhistle is requiring Earwhig on Taxation of Bedsprings because the bookstore would stock a mix of the print and e-books and students could choose which to purchase.

But CALI does not seem to be having such a problem with adoption or at least with downloading of the free E-Langdell materials. At least at the CALI business meeting, John Mayer sounded very positive about the number that had been downloaded in 2012. I have no way to compare CALI's sales to Foundation Press's. H20 is so new, there is really no comparison. It's very interesting that they plan to cooperate with CALI to the extent that both groups will feature the other's e-books.

But the question still remains whether law students really will want to use e-casebooks. I carefully noted that these all included capabilities that had seemed important when I spoke some years ago with Lyonette Louis-Jacques, about what was missing from e-case books then:

* ability to page backwards and forwards
* hyperlinks from a table of contents and/or index
* bookmarks
* ability to search text for notes or terms

Interactive and Personalization
* ability to make notes and highlight text
* ability to cut and paste from the text into Word or other outlining software
* ability to share notes

Security and Portability

* Can be read on multiple types of platforms, including mobile
* Can be saved in the cloud, not just on the reading device
* Is there DRM?

From the Professor's point of view:

* Can the book be edited, mashed up with others, changed, updated by ME?

From the Students' point of view:
* How much does it cost? (or is it FREE?!)

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