May 16, 2011
CALI's The Free Law Reporter: Open Law Meets Open Access
CALI's The Free Law Reporter electronically publishes nearly every recent state and federal appellate and supreme court opinion using the bulk distribution provided by Carl Malamud’s Report of Current Opinions (RECOP). The project's goal is greater access to these resources through enhanced and alternate formats of the weekly feeds coming from RECOP by provide online search and by making the alternative format options available such as eBook collections in the .epub format. From CALI's announcement for The Free Law Reporter:
The first 2 features of FLR to be made available are search and ebooks. Basic keyword searching is available with facet searching and “more like this” functionality coming shortly. Because search is powered by Solr, more sophisticated search is possible and that functionality will be developed as the collection grows.
Each weekly archive file provides the content for the generation of some 60 ebooks every week. Each state and federal jurisdiction is gathered into a volume each week. For example 1FLRAlaska.epub contains the opinions from the Alaska state courts that were included in the first RECOP archive file. The ebooks are in the .epub format, a widely supported format that can be read on Windows, Mac, and Linux PCs and laptops as well as iPad, iPhone, and Android devices. Amazon Kindle support is possible through third party conversion programs like Calibre while we research more direct paths to Kindle support. Access to the FLR ebook volumes will be available via the CALI Legal Education Commons and FLR websites.
Kudos to CALI. The Free Law Reporter looks very promising. I'm already liking the creativity CALI has demonstrated by its eBook delivery option. More FLR features are in development. For example, CALI also is working on a service to allow users, (e.g. law faculty) to group and edit opinions and publish them as custom eBooks for legal education.
Other users should also include non-law prof legal authors who want to start developing practitoner titles. While the the RECOP-FLR opinons being made available right now are relatively recent, there is a audience awaiting for timely "current developments" for members of the bench and bar authored by practitioners. This would take the utilization of FLR's functionalities beyond the legal academy and into the commerical marketplace for eBooks authored by many, many folks already dissatisfied with WEXS practices for producing practitioner works. In the New Normal of eBook publishing, eCommerce sites like iBookstore don't care how large a publisher is. They only care that authors meet their technical standards for distribution.
Although in its infancy, FLR already gets my vote for AALL's 2012 Best Product Award because this service is an example of what can happen when open law meets open access. [JH]