Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Popularity of Property Textbooks

Snagging an idea from Lawrence Cunningham's post on Contracts casebooks, I decided to check out the Amazon sales of leading property textbooks.   According to Amazon, these are the 10 most popular Property books (and their rank in total Amazon book sales - that includes all books sold on the site):

1.  Dukeminier, Krier, Alexander, Schill  (4,880)

2.  Merrill & Smith  (6,295)

3.  Singer  (40,018)

4.  Sprankling & Coletta  (120,134)

5.  Kurtz & Hovenkamp  (179,568)

6.  Nelson, Stoebuck, Whitman  (192,986)

7.  Donahue, Kauper, Martin (200,028)

8.  Cribbet, Findley, Smith  (268,434)

9.  Rabin, Kwall, Kwall (275,789)

10.  Casner, Leach, French (298,704)


A found a few things here pretty surprising.  First, I'm a little shocked that the Merrill & Smith has become so popular.  I don't mean to imply that it's not a good or erudite text - it most certainly is.  However, I would have guessed that its deeply theoretical bent would have curtailed its spread beyond the very top schools.  Second, the success of both the Merrill & Smith (first published in 2007) and the Sprankling & Coletta (first published in 2009) seems to indicate that there's a hunger for new voices in the property textbook market.   

I'll also use this post to highlight the debate between Cunningham and Bainbridge over what makes a "good" textbook.  Bainbridge argues that the success of his Corporations textbook comes from it's exhaustive teacher's manuel and the textbook's "lean and mean" take on the subject.  Cunningham, in contrast, likes a book packed with "notes, questions and comments, scholarly excerpts, problems, statutory and restatement selections, interdisciplinary perspectives and more."  I think I side with Bainbridge on these issues - I'm not sure students get much out of the extras and I think that stuff works to drive up the price of textbooks.  Thoughts on any of this?

Steve Clowney

UPDATE: Looking at the data again, I think this list almost certainly undersells the popularity of the Dukeminier casebook. As the post indicates, the newest edition (7th) is the number one book in the field. However, I overlooked that the 6th addition would currently rank as the fourth most sold Property textbook. Combining the 6th and 7th addition sales would likely show that Dukeminier leads the field by a much wider gap than the post indicates.

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I am using the Sprankling & Coletta book this semester. I have been very happy with the book so far as well as the teacher's manual, which has some great supplementary information. The notes and questions in the book are great, but I think the book is fairly lean and mean. I haven't used any of the other books, so I can't compare, but I'm happy with this one!

Posted by: Tanya Marsh | Jan 26, 2011 4:32:29 PM

A casebook is a teaching tool, not a substitute for a hornbook. Remember the Gunther casebook many of you used for con law when you were in law school? Did you really, as a student, get anything out of those very thoughtful, complete, and provocative notes? And you're all PROFESSORS.

It's easier to add to a book (for a pet topic) than to subtract (all those notes that you don't want to spend time on, but that your students will ask about). And if you ignore those notes in class, what message does that send to your students - it tells them to stop reading the notes.

When I teach Contracts and Torts I have several good casebooks I can choose from, edited to be teaching tools, and including some with good problems that provide review of doctrine at the end of each section of material. Not so much in Property.

Posted by: Howard Katz | Feb 6, 2011 10:31:40 AM

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