Thursday, May 8, 2014

How NOT to Roll Out a New Textbook


Last week many of us got an email from Aspen (Wolters-Kluwer) about the upcoming new edition of the Dukeminier Property textbook (disclosure: I currently use the 7th edition and like it).

The text of the email (which I've included after the jump) raises some very serious questions.  It appears that Aspen is going to provide a physical copy of the book and then require students to return their copy at the end of the semester (in return the students get lifetime access to Aspen's digital property materials).  On its face, this appears to be an attempt to eliminate the used textbook market.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of professors think this looks unfair to students (and maybe illegal under the first sale doctrine).  It's worth checking out Rebecca Tushnet's and Josh Blackman's blogs on this issue.  Paul Levy suggests a boycott of Aspen.  And James Grimmelman has started a petition (which I've signed).   

What's really shocking to me is that Aspen (Wolters-Kluwer) seems so utterly unprepared for people to question this new program.  They sent out an email that announces a major new initiative but it includes almost none of the important details.  How much will the book cost?  Will they go after students that don't return the book?  How will they get bookstores to go along with this?  Are they going to destroy the returned books?

Even stranger, Aspen doesn't seem to know the answers to these questions.  I spoke with my school's Wolters-Kluwer representative and a higher-up at corporate.  They both insisted that there are "a lot of misconceptions" floating around in the blogosphere but neither wanted to answer any questions yesterday.  It seems like they're still finalizing their policies on the new "connected casebook" series.  Eek. I'm scheduled to talk with the Vice-President today and I'll report what I hear (though I expect we'll all get an e-mail from Aspen about the kerfuffle quite soon).


Dear Professor,
Thank you for adopting Dukeminier/Krier/Alexander/Schill/Strahilevitz, Property text. We are pleased to announce that this title will be part of our new Connected Casebook program. The Connected Casebook program is intended to provide students access to a greater wealth of learning tools than offered previously, with no change in price. Under the Connected casebook program, your students will receive:
• A new, bound version of the casebook, which can be marked-up, highlighted, and kept through the length of the course, but which must be returned to us at the conclusion of the class.
• Lifetime access to CasebookConnect, a rich digital companion to the casebook, containing a full digital version of the casebook as well as selected proven learning accelerators, such as examples, explanations, and a collection of issue-spotting and hypothetical exercises.
The primary way that students will be able to purchase the Connected Casebook is through our website at Please place this URL on your syllabus to notify your students of where to purchase the casebook. We are also connecting with your bookstore in the coming weeks to let them know how they can participate in the program. The ISBN for your title is 9781454837602.
To better support you, here are answers to some questions you may have. Please contact your sales representative with any additional questions.
1. Do I need to do anything different because this title is a Connected Casebook?
No, you do not need to do anything different as an instructor. Your students will have the same print casebook they have always had; they will just have additional online study resources they may choose to utilize.
2. Can students mark up the print books?
Yes, students can highlight or otherwise mark up the print books as much as they like. They simply need to return them at the end of the class. Students can also annotate and highlight the digital version of the book. These annotations will be available to them through the digital platform permanently.
3. Is the print edition of the Connected Casebook different from other print casebooks I’ve used?
No, the print casebook you and your students receive will be the same as print casebooks you have used in the past.
4. Can the students sell their books back at the end of the semester?
The students will receive lifetime access to CasebookConnect, including the full digital version of their casebook, but they will need to return the print casebook to us at the end of the class.
5. Can my students purchase Connected Casebooks through our campus bookstore?
Your bookstore can participate in the program if they choose. We will be reaching out to your bookstore shortly to provide them with details.
We are confident you will find the new Connected Casebook version of your title to be easy to use and extremely helpful to your students as they seek to master the material in your class. If you have any questions, please contact your sales representative, or email our support team at Thank you.

| Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference How NOT to Roll Out a New Textbook:


Hi Steve. Aspen seems to have changed their policy. Now students can opt to keep the hardcover version, but only if they decline the electronic copy.

Posted by: Josh Blackman | May 8, 2014 9:12:10 AM

The updated policy is here:

Posted by: Josh Blackman | May 8, 2014 9:12:41 AM

Post a comment