For law school libraries that provide required textbooks as part of their course reserve services, it is a good time to review various features of digital casebooks. While some vendors sell bundled packages of casebooks, this post is about casebooks purchased as individual ebooks for library patron use.
Libraries can purchase Aspen casebooks individually in digital format from ProQuest LibCentral for library patron use. Carolina Academic Press casebooks can be purchased individually in digital format from Matthew Bender and made available for patrons via the LexisNexis Digital Library in the OverDrive platform. West Academic sells digital casebooks as part of a bundled package with other casebooks; libraries cannot purchase individual digital casebooks for library patron use.
The LibCentral and OverDrive platforms allow users to highlight, annotate, and bookmark. Users can highlight in multiple colors which can help with the IRAC process. Both platforms require extra clicks to get to the pagination and it does not necessarily match the print book so professors may need to assign chapters, sections, and subsections to read rather than pages.
A library’s ProQuest LibCentral administrator can set individual ebooks so that they can only be read online, or the administrator can set limited check-out periods. However, ProQuest does not allow for early return so the ebook will be inaccessible to others until the user returns it. Reading online, rather than checking out, makes the book inaccessible to others until the user closes the browser.
OverDrive only allows check-out options, rather than reading online. The minimum check-out period is longer than most academic law libraries would use for course reserve materials. There is an option to return the ebook early. However, it may not be intuitive for users to figure out how to do this.
During the pandemic, students appreciated digital access and usage statistics appear to be greater than historical print circulation statistics, but we will need more time and usage data to determine if students truly prefer digital casebooks.