At our law library we maintain one print copy of each required textbook for a semester. To meet this service our access services department reviews a list of required textbooks for the coming semester. We check these against what we currently have in our collection and then create a list of textbooks that we need to order to fulfill the remainder of books on the list that we do not have. The number of new books we need to purchase each semester does not change too much, but we have seen the cost of this same number of books creep up over time.
The Education Data Initiative provides eye-opening numbers about how the average cost of textbooks has increased over the years. For example, the article notes that textbook prices increase by 12% with each new edition. Additionally, for a view over time, the cost of textbooks increased by 1,104% between 1977 and 2015. Most professors believe the cost of course materials is a burden to their students. However, not many professors are aware of open educational resources (OER). Both articles provide more statistics and information to boggle the mind, which I will leave to you to further investigate at another time and so I do not totally dampen your day with grim news!
On a more positive note, post conversation with a colleague, I borrowed from and added to a list of free and low-cost course materials she created. With our law faculty currently making decisions for their spring courses, I am sending them a list of free and low-cost materials in hopes it may encourage some of them to consider alternative selections. Below are a few resources I am mentioning to them.
Legal Casebooks & Materials – Casebook Platforms
- The eLangdell Bookstore. Open-access publishing wing of CALI. Provides free casebooks on many law school topics written by distinguished law school professors and experts.
- Semaphore Press. Provides a selection of case books on a small but growing number of topics. Digital editions of casebooks are $30, print around $70, depending on the casebook.
- Open Textbook Library. A curated collection of open textbooks either in use at multiple higher education institutions or “affiliated with a higher education institution, scholarly society, or professional organization.” Some are relisted titles from eLangdell, but others are original titles. Platform allows user reviews that faculty can refer to when considering whether to adopt a textbook.
Individually Published Free & Low-Cost Casebooks
The following is a sampling of casebook titles that are not aggregated on any platform.
- Trademark Law, Barton Beebe, ver. 9 (2022).
- Intellectual Property: Law & The Information Society, James Boyle & Jennifer Jenkins (2021).
- Open Source Property: A Free Casebook, Stephen Clowney et al, eds. (updates vary by parts, most recent 2022).
- Copyright Law: Cases & Materials, Jeanne C. Fromer & Christopher Jon Sprigman (2021).
- Criminal Law, Corey Rayburn Yung (2019).
- Professional Responsibility: An Open-Source Casebook, Brian L. Frye & Elizabeth Schiller (2019).
- Homeland Security: Safeguarding the U.S. from Domestic Catastrophic Destruction, Richard White at al (2016).
Casebook Development Platforms
Faculty and their associated institutions interested in making educational resources (e.g., digital textbooks) available for their students and others can look to publishing platforms that make it easy to create, adapt, and share educational material.
- Pressbooks. Built on a WordPress framework which simplifies the development of Open Educational Resources (OER) books. Provides a range of textbook design templates and a cover creation tool. Cost is per book, not edition. Includes online hosting and export to PDF or eBook formats.
- H2O. Developed by Harvard. Platform facilitates creation of casebooks. Authors can import U.S. case law directly into the case casebook and omit text to only the relevant portions. Allows authors to write introductory text or create annotations for each case.
Informing our law faculty about alternatives is essential in addressing the high cost of course materials. We librarians can get that conversation started.