March 1, 2012
Value and Utility Propositions for Enhanced Law eBooks: Marx vs. the Other Guy
We all know that CALI's executive director John Meyer is a pinko commie (or commie pinko) and that CALI is home base for the Red Menace because "[o]ur premise is that if it's educational, you've got to give people the freedom to repurpose the material for educational goals. If anytime you have to ask yourself, 'Does this make us money,' then you're not really serving educational goals." Quoting from RIP pCasebooks, 1871 - 2021 (Do note John's comment to the post.) Now comes more commie open access propaganda from Elmer Master, CALI's Director of Internet Development:
The future of the book is the open web, not some platform silo. Only putting books on the web will unlock the potential of books and it is easy enough to do.
Legal information workers of the world unite! In The Future of The (Case)Book: Open and Closed Platforms, Elmer makes an important point:
Anything that you can do on the web, you can do with a book. As an author, reader, student, teacher, scholar; anything is possible with a book that is on the open web. The potential for linking, including external material, use of media, note taking, editing, markup, remixing are opened without the bounds of a specific reader platform. A book as a website provides the potential for unlimited customization that will work across any hardware platform.
This Marxist inspired argument does assume that locking down an eBook to one or more specific commercial platforms reduces the utility of the eBook. Nothing is stopping an author of an enhanced law eBook from citing to and linking to any source unless the commercial publisher and/or e-bookseller refuses to allow that.
Sound far-fetched? Seth Godin, the bestselling author of 13 books, reports that Apple
is rejecting my new manifesto Stop Stealing Dreams and won’t carry it in their store because inside the manifesto are [Amazon] links to buy the books I mention in the bibliography.
What if one of our commercial law vendors insists on substituting the vendor's database links for the worker's provided links to open source law? What if the author cites and links to secondary source titles not available in the vendor's database because they are published by a competitor? Here's where the law eBook value proposition of bourgeois economics comes into play. We'll have to just wait to see how this plays out in the commercial enhanced law eBook space.
Watch out attendees of Some Assembly Required. I'm thinking a full-blown commie manifesto is coming. (Do note that the above link embedded in the word "manifesto" is to text provided under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.) The "men in black" at CALI's annual meeting this year may be agents of potential buyers of TR Legal's law school publishing division.
Customization as repurposing content for a specific educational purpose. Today's forthcoming eBook formats include enhanced capabilities for interactivity but, and not intending to put words in Elmer's mouth, I believe his most important point really is that the book-on-the-web offers customization opportunities for the course instructor who adopts the work and student end users. The key here is the open web where context can be provided with an Creative Commons license. In terms of instructional purposes, fair use may allow customization by scraping eBook content to tailor text for e-course packages profs create and enhance for a specific reading list based on utilizing all available e-content in all available forms. That, however, may not be as easy to do as the open web platform.
Of course, the licensing model for law eBooks may not even allow fair use for educational purposes by way of customization or current (as in not yet hacked) platforms that may make it damn hard to do so. While CALI is a corrective for for-profit ventures in this market space, the commercial publishers for law eTextbooks -- commercial casebooks, treatises and study aids -- in enhanced eBook formats will be the dominate product source for this market.
The other guy's name is Adam Smith. Despite CALI's noble goals, many (most?) law profs do like to get paid for their labor when they write law books. The greatest earnings potential remains in the distribution channels offered by our commercial legal publishers. Let's add that commercial publishers have put a lot more of the editorial production work on the shoulders of authors but they have not yet tasked them with eBook conversion coding.
Imaging, for example, the cringing experience of a IT staffer's reaction to a law prof who says "I want to unlock the potential of my new book by putting it on the web or eBooking it and I hear that is 'easy enough to do.' So I want you to create an e-commerce site on the web for my book or format the text for all eBook reader apps for me so I can sell it to everyone." Remember when law profs ask their tech staffs to create their powerpoint presentations for them? Is this next?
Law school IT staff alert! In the commercial space, there are p- and e-Book publishers you can send your law faculty to investigate. One that come immediately to mind is Tulane law prof turned indie publisher, Steven Alan Childress' Quid Pro Books.
Sure there are plenty of law profs who participate in CALI e-text publishing programs. They should be commended. Creative Commons permissions or an ownership model for commercial eBooks which allows repackaging of e-Content that does not consider customization to be a derivative work under copyright law may seem far fetched but my hunch is that some of our major legal publishers will eventually allow some sort of customization and not just for educational purposes. Doing otherwise eventually will be about as futile as one of our vendor's long ago attempt to stop photocopying based on copyright claims.
End note. With I had tip to Sarah Glassmeyer's tweet, there is another commie plot afoot in the education field. The first ever Open Education Week is taking place March 5-10 2012. The purpose is to raise awareness of the open education movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide.
This campaign might want to take a close look at the FCC and US Department of Education's “challenge to states and companies to ensure every K-12 student has a digital textbook within five years.”
This ambitious plan “to help K-12 schools transition to digital textbooks” in the next 5 years is laid out in the Digital Textbook Collaborative. The plan builds on the FCC’s National Broadband Plan and the Department of Education’s National Education Technology Plan and includes “membership” from a range of technology companies, publishers, schools and associations—from Apple to Verizon, Blackboard to McGraw Hill, San Diego Unified School District to Freed-Hardeman University.
Quoting from Nancy K. Herther's Etextbooks Attracting Involvement of the FCC, Education Department, and Higher Ed. [JH]
Heh. Although we are a bunch of pinkos, I do want to make clear that we pay authors for their work...$500/chapter. http://elangdell.cali.org/content/write-elangdell-casebook-or-chapter Plus we do a lot of editorial clean up like bluebooking. In my mind, the only possible detriment to publishing with CALI as opposed to The Other Guys, is that a promotion/tenure committee might not value a CALI casebook as highly as a Foundation Press one. Which is sort of silly, because as was shown with Rudovosky, the editorial standards of the commercial sector leaves something to be desired. Hopefully soon people will realize that the emperor has no clothes and OA publishing is just as valid as the traditional route.
-- Hi Sarah, Yup, CALI authors do receive some $$. I would hope tenure committees would give at least as many brownie points for CALI contributions as for commercial textbook contributions! Joe
Posted by: Sarah Glassmeyer | Mar 1, 2012 7:57:45 AM