Monday, January 23, 2012

Reaction to Apple's decision to enter the e-textbook market

Last week we told about Apple's decision to enter the e-textbook market. Today the Chronicle of Higher Ed has gathered some of the thoughts and reactions by academics from around the web.

Campus Reactions to Apple’s Entry Into E-Textbook Market

Last week Apple released free software to make e-books for the iPad, declaring that the company intended to “reinvent the textbook.” Apple also updated its iTunesU service, first released four years ago, to make it possible for professors to put syllabi, lecture videos and audio recordings, and e-textbooks into one spot for students.College administrators and professors had mixed reactions to the news: some said it could spur far greater adoption of digital textbooks, while others criticized the product for relying too heavily on Apple products, leaving out key support for PC’s and tablets running Android software.

Below are some points made by campus leaders, in interviews or on their blogs:

Making it easy-to-create books will help authors keep textbooks more up-to-date.
“Providing constant content updates through the Cloud is key,” argues Jed Macosko, associate professor of physics at Wake Forest University, in an analysis he published on the university’s PR Web site. “Educators will be able to create more quickly and for free, which lowers costs and improves accessibility for students. Some people might worry that content will become unreliable, but what we’ve seen with Wikipedia is that the cream of the crop typically rises to the top.”

Apple’s announcement is far from revolutionary, and in fact locks content in the company’s products.
“What a lost opportunity,” wrote Audrey Watters, on her Hack Education blog. “If this is a revolutionary announcement about reshaping textbooks and educational content, we must ask revolutionary for whom? For wealthy schools? For students who have iPads at home and parents willing to pay out of pocket for supplementary textbook materials? For publishers?” The passionate post drew cheers on Twitter from many professors. As David Parry, an assistant professor of emerging media and communications at the University of Texas at Dallas, Tweeted, “this isn’t about ‘changing everything’ for education, is about reconfiguring the business models of textbooks ie who profits.”

Apple will likely refine its e-textbooks over time, as it did with the iPod and iPhone.
“Instead of expecting Apple to save education, why don’t you appreciate the waves they’re making in the water and use that momentum to keep the conversation focused and moving?,” argued Tim Owens, on his blog. He noted that the iPhone was criticized at first because it lacked some hoped-for features, but the company has added many of them in subsequent releases. “We got a lot of interesting things today, and all I hear are people unhappy,” he added. “When we set the ship on fire before it has even made it out of the dock we’ll never get to sail.”

The spotlight on e-textbooks will help all players.
Even if Apple’s new products don’t catch on, the media frenzy around its announcement helped raise interest in digital offerings, said Kyle D. Bowen, Purdue University’s director of informatics. “The most important outcome of yesterday’s announcement was to bring mainstream attention to textbooks and the issue of e-textbooks,” he added. “Textbooks are really kind of an outdated form of delivering this content, and we see somebody trying to come up with something slightly different.” Mr. Bowen and his team at Purdue have built their own build-a-textbook tool, called JetPack.

More professors will try making custom textbooks for their courses.
“If there were a way to ‘publish’ a book only targeting my class, by converting those outlines I’ve made into short chapters on each topic, well… Why not?” writes Chris Wolverton, a biology professor at Ohio Wesleyan University, on his blog. He says he could quickly take his notes and slides and crank out an e-book with Apple’s new authoring software. Though only students with iPads could easily view the full multimedia version, he could distribute a PDF for other students. “Having the freedom and flexibility to put together a little book to accompany a specialty course is an attractive idea to me, one that I plan to experiment with.”

Alumni offices and other departments can now enter the e-book world.
“While Apple is aiming this at textbook authors and publishers, there’s no reason we can’t easily create rich multimedia versions of our college magazines using it,” argued Mike Richwalsky, director of marketing services at John Carroll University. “Apple just made it redonkulously easy to put your alumni magazine on the iPad—and, best of all, they did it for free.”

Click here to check out more comments about Apple's e-textbooks.


January 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

More Male Partners Going Part-Time

More  on our Jan. 20 posting about NALP's report on legal employment. More male partners  are going part-time. The supporting evidence is not dramatic, but is significant. Here are excerpts from an article on The Careerist.:

According to NALP's just released survey, only 6.2 percent of lawyers at big firms work part-time—and the number is trending downward, albeit slightly:

But here's the curiosity: Despite that downward trend, a steady stream of partners is opting for part-time. "The growth rate of part-time work among partners has been greater, rising from 1.2 percent in 1994 to 3.6 percent in 2010 and 3.5 percent in 2011," reports NALP.

What's more, that uptick is coming from men: "In 2006 almost 72 percent of part-time partners were women. In 2011 that figure was about 66 percent. In 2010 that figure had dropped to 64 percent."

NALP suggests no reason for the trend. Maybe some guys are looking for a better quality of life.


January 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Book on Teaching Legal Writing

Strategies and Techniques for Teaching Legal Analysis and Writing (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business, 2012) by Amy Vorenberg.

Abstract: This book is intended to help new (and not so new) law teachers prepare for their first year of teaching Legal Writing.

(Scott Fruehwald)

January 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The story of highlighters

Ever wonder about the origin of the highlighter?  Today we take them for granted but there was a time when the humble highlighter had as profound an effect on people's reading habits as contemporary e-reading devices like the Kindle.  To learn the interesting history of this ubiquitous reading aid, check out this article from the Sunday New York Times Magazine section.

Who Made That?

The Hand-Held Highlighter

Once, when readers wanted to remember something, they had to mark important passages with thin, wobbly lines in drab, hard-to-relocate colors. Before the rise of the highlighter, says Dennis Baron, a University of Illinois professor and the author of “A Better Pencil,” attentive readers relied on “a combination of underlining and marginal notes.”

Like so much else, that began to change in the 1960s. It was then that the Japanese inventor Yukio Horie created a felt-tip pen that used water-based ink. The following year, in 1963, the Massachusetts print-media giant Carter’s Ink developed a similar water-based marker that emitted an eye-catching translucent ink. They called it the Hi-Liter.

As with Horie’s invention, capillary action pulled ink through a filter — similar to the one in a cigarette — to the paper’s surface when a writer pressed the highlighter to paper. Just as important as the ink’s smooth, even application was its color: see-through yellow and pink, which both drew the eye and neatly delineated a piece of text without obscuring it. The fact that the highlighter’s ink was water-based, rather than alcohol-based, helped prevent it from seeping through paper.

By the 1970s, highlighting was already overtaking underlining as the dominant way to refer back to something important, or just kind of important. In 1978, Dennison, the predecessor to today’s binder-and-label behemoth Avery Dennison, had gobbled up Carter’s Ink and was ready to introduce the next great innovation in text-marking technology: fluorescent colors. This class of pen, which has come to dominate the medium, achieves its unearthly glow by absorbing UV rays and re-emitting them into the visible spectrum.

The highlighter’s appeal has flourished in the digital age. Most word-processing and e-reader software products have a highlighter function. And the hand-held highlighter continues to evolve, too. In the early ’80s, the fiber tip gave way to polyethylene beads molded into porous heads. (The plastic squeaks less, and the ink flows more smoothly.) When the highlighter business saw that it wasn’t being embraced by holdouts who preferred pens, it made the dual highlighter/pen. There are now retractable highlighters. And flat ones. And ones that smell like pizza.

But Steve Raskin, a senior marketing director for Avery Dennison, says 85 percent of sales go to the classics: yellow and pink.


January 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Teaching legal skills in Qatar - Part 3

Here's the third installment from our guest blogger Professor Rob Hudson on teaching legal skills in the Middle East (click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2).  In this final post, Professor Hudson describes what it's like to be a faculty member and law librarian at Qatar University.

The first point about being faculty here at the College of Law in Qatar is that there are almost no Qataris on the faculty. All but two of the law professors are from somewhere else and most are on three year contracts, although extensions exist, but tenure does not exist. The faculty is multinational and multi-lingual so that we have our faculty meetings in a room with simultaneous translation through wireless headsets. Many of the faculty are from Egypt or Lebanon and are on leave from faculty status in those countries. Others, including Dean Hassan Okour, are from Jordan. The Dean has a Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Ghana, Canada, Germany, France, the US, and the UK are part of the international mix too. The majority of faculty are men. The degrees of faculty at the College of Law include many PhDs and LLMs. Few have a JD or LLB as their terminal degree. The Faculty of Law split from the Sharia Faculty to be autonomous in 2006.

Qatar University is investing in major new facilities as part of the strategic plan and international accreditation efforts. Faculty at the College of Law benefited with a new building, shared with the business school,  and a new library this year.  The accreditation efforts of QU College of Law are focused on both SACS and the ABA from the United States. The ABA standards are entirely self-imposed as no avenue for accreditation outside of the US currently exists.  I have joint status at the College of Law and the Library and as law librarian take the Chapter Six requirements from the ABA to heart as I develop the law collection from minimal to functional.  Significant differences from US law schools are that half of the classes are taught in Arabic and no American law classes are in the curriculum at all. Classes are being proposed in all areas of legal studies, including advanced legal research, so the curriculum is still evolving.  Grants are heavily supported by the University and research is gaining emphasis in a traditionally instruction-driven academic environment.

The work here includes faculty housing, family benefits including schooling, work permits for family members, and travel.  My family is with me from the US and my oldest girl is in an international school. One of the greatest benefits to me as an American expat is to see the way my children are enriched culturally by living in an international destination like Doha. Faculty housing is often in gated compounds. I exercised the option to live off-compound at the Pearl to be closer to work and the Gulf. Faculty and their families here need to spend great amounts of time establishing Qatari permanent residency and the University works hard to make the process go fast. This includes University buses and intake specialists that will move a new faculty member from appointment to appointment at government departments. I still think it took me three months before I got a Qatari driver’s license! Return flights to Miami for my family are part of the yearly compensation and we have enjoyed trips to Malaysia and the UAE this year.

I like the schedule. The work week is Sunday to Thursday and the working day typically lasts from 7am to 2 pm. I go to church on Friday mornings with my family! I dislike the traffic and consider it to be the only danger next to the dust in a country ranking so high in quality of life.

For a US law librarian like me the idea that text is read right to left in Arabic, books open from the right cover, and the indexes are on the left is difficult. I still open books only to find I am looking at the back cover. Accessing Arabic books correctly on the shelf means that stacks and call numbers progress from right to left and from bottom to top for some of the collection. With the new library at Qatar University and our move in February 2012 to that facility we are faced with the dilemma of interfiling English and Arabic books while each demand completely opposite organization.  Also, the entire collection – English, Arabic – is in the process of a reclassification to LC from Dewey so we are quite busy. The ILS used is Millennium like at many US law schools but it is so recent the library has grand wooden card catalogs in the hall of the staff area.

Technology is good here in Qatar. Electronic resources are being integrated  by Qatar University with Blackboard use mandatory for all classes. Databases for legal research are ideally both in English and Arabic for navigation and content. Arabic text is best displayed in PDF as it often distorts in other formats like HTML. Few databases live up to this ideal.  Very few law students carry laptops here although all have smartphones. The challenge for skills instructors like me is to persuade the students to use mobile technologies like iPad and Blackberry and schedule classes in the instructional labs with computers. Blackberry Messenger is more effective to communicate with law students than email!

My struggle is to make legal research skills and library services relevant for the law students. Workshops and classes seem to be poorly attended and I wonder sometimes if I am making a difference.  My heavy John Wayne American accent probably does not help and I wish I spoke Arabic. Fortunately I am integrated into the writing courses and provide assessment for 15% of the grade in legal research and writing. I am developing a reading knowledge of Arabic, slowly. 

Qatar is less known than neighboring Dubai but becoming the economic and tourist hub for the region. There is no Great Recession here. The dynamic is very interesting and I enjoy living and working here.  The University is creating an international law school for the region .

My experiences are included on the Qatar University Law Librarian blog  .

Dr. Rob Hudson

Lecturer/Law Librarian

Qatar University, College of Law

PO Box 2713

Doha, Oatar

Thanks, Rob, for an interesting series of posts. You're welcome back here anytime.


January 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

ABA Committee Proposes Changes in How Law Schools Report Employment Data

Many have accused some law schools of reporting job data in a way that suggests misleadingly positive information. The ABA Standards Review Committee has responded by recommending detailed disclosure. There are high points of its proposal:

• Law schools would have to report the number of graduates upon which their published salary figures are based.

• Law schools must stipulate whether graduates are in long-term or short-term positions, or in jobs funded by the school.

• Law schools must report on their Web sites the retention rates for conditional scholarships and provide that information when offering those scholarships.

Here is a full report from


January 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Legal Skills Exercises in Legal Writing Textbooks

While the move to publish casebooks that contain legal skills exercises is very recent, legal writing texts have long included legal skills exercises, and they have gotten even better in recent years. For example, Writing and Analysis in the Law, by Helene S. Shapo, Marilyn R. Walter, & Elizabeth Fajans contains a wealth of miniskills exercises. They have exercises on case analysis, applying precedent, identifying relevant facts, synthesizing cases, statutory analysis, analyzing cases and statutes to provide large-scale organization, case synthesis to create small-scale organization, working with different types of arguments, etc. I am especially impressed with their case synthesis exercises, which I have used for many years, and how they use case synthesis exercises to help organize on the large-scale and small-scale levels.

Similarly, Legal Writing: Process, Analysis, and Organization by Linda Holdeman Edwards contains many skills exercises. Particularly helpful are her extensive exercises on formulating rules.

If anyone wants to send me a list of their favorite legal skills exercises in legal writing texts, I will be happy to put them together in a post when I have enough entries. (

(Scott Fruehwald)

January 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)