Sunday, January 22, 2012
In a move that represents a double play for the future of legal education, or at least its textbooks, Apple announced its plans to enter the e-textbook market. Apple plans to release several high school textbooks in electronic form. Students will be able to read these textbooks on an iPad after they present a redemption code purchased by their high schools from Apple. Apple being a player in the textbook market is big news for all levels of education.
But an earnest transition to e-textbooks in the law school market could create momentum that reshapes the more general legal text market. If students are trained to read legal writing solely in electronic form, the transition to a paperless legal text environment will accelerate. Some might argue that the transition to electronic text has already effectively occurred with services like Westlaw and Lexis dominating the legal research market and traditional paper libraries, in both firms and counties, being disassembled. The current reality, however, is one where students read paper casebooks.
The paper casebook is the last real bridge between the digital age student and reading in traditional print. Eliminating this link could make it more difficult to get students to browse traditional print secondary sources that are currently, in my opinion, superior in paper form. And some writers have seriously questioned the wisdom of putting the law book market in the hands of Apple, a company that is notoriously closed and proprietary. Near the time of the advent of the iPad, Greg Lambert observed:
The biggest problem with legal publishers relying on the iPad as their platform for electronic publishing is that they are really locking themselves into a partnership with a company that is extremely proprietary --closed systems vs. open.
Whichever company ultimately ends up building the device that replaces the classic casebook, the change is coming, and it will redefine the way the next generation of law students consumes legal content.