GSU Updates and a Way Forward from Israel

Thanks to Kevin Smith’s ever excellent blog, Scholarly Communication @ Duke, for updating us on the GSU e-reserves litigation.  About that case now before the 11th Circuit, Smith reminds us that “[t]he very academics that are vilified as thieves in this lawsuit are the ones who produce the content that Oxford, Cambridge and Sage take, usually for free, to resell at a high profit.”  Smith links to University of Toronto law professor Ariel Katz’s post about the recent settlement reached by two Israeli publishers and the Hebrew University with regard to fair use in e-reserves.  That agreement seems to be an eminently reasonable way forward that, according to Smith, “indicates a real commitment to scholarship and education on the part of these Israeli publishers, something wholly lacking from the U.S. plaintiffs.”

Provocative New Article on Academic Law Librarianship and the Crisis in Legal Education Asks, “Are We Part of the Problem?”

“[L]aw school librarians have willingly contributed to some of the negativity that legal education has attracted.”

In the Fall 2013 issue of LLSDC’s Law Library Lights, Steve Young, Senior Reference Librarian at the Kathryn J. DuFour Law Library at the Catholic University School of Law suggests academic law librarians searching for the causes for the crisis in legal education take a careful look in the mirror. Vendors and law librarians of all sorts will find this piece bracing:

Scientific American Article about Recent Studies Comparing Reading on Paper Versus on Screen

New Scientific American article discusses that advantages in terms of comprehension of reading on paper as opposed to on screen.

Live Blog– E1: Off the Page and Beyond the Book


Two Major Take Aways:

1. Ebooks are not books.

2. They can be anything we want them to be.

Ed Walters of FastCase told us that librarians and vendors can work together to make ebooks that meet user needs and do not hew to outdated book-based metaphors.  Jason Wilson of Jones McClure reminded us of the scope of the challenge ahead and the sheer number of choices we have to make in designing the electronic legal information environment.  Jean O’Grady of DLA Piper, and Scott Meiser of LexisNexis helped us understand where we are now with ebooks and where we might go.

Please keep reading CRIV Blog for a continuation of this extremely important conversation.



CRIV Vendor Roundtable Live Blog


AALL Seattle, CRIV Vendor Roundtable, 7/15/2013, 11:45-12:45

Lexis eBooks can be accessed directly via each library’s ILS rather than requiring end users to log onto or to download some additional proprietary platform. Thompson Reuters has a different philosophy.  They believe that in order to achieve full multimedia capabilities for West eBooks, a full-function proprietary application is required.  However, many of the librarians in the room feel that eBooks should not be tied up in proprietary platforms.  For these librarians, accessibility and ease of use trumps user experience.

Ed Walters of Fastcase asks, “Do users actually prefer apps to eBooks?”  Various vendor reps suggest that we should not be too wrapped up with any particular label.  Web site, eBook, database, all of these will converge.

My eBook Reader is Skeuomorphic – But Should My Invoice Be?

Guest Blogger: Ed Walters, CEO of Fastcase

My eBook reader of choice is Apple’s iPad, either using the Kindle app or Apple’s iBooks.  I am a big supporter of story and metaphor, and I like reading on my iPad, too. Skeuomorphic design, or design that attempts to mimic reality, has been the hallmark of Apple’s iOS operating system until very recently. The metaphor of selecting and opening a make-believe book, and turning pages that don’t actually exist, engages readers and allows them to feel comfortable reading in a digital space.

Publishers, though, tend to run into trouble when they try to extend this book-and-shelf metaphor too far, beyond the reading experience and into the distribution and pricing of eBooks. Harper-Collins drew jeers, and rightly so, in 2011 when they introduced a plan to sell libraries Mission Impossible eBooks, which would self-destruct after twenty-six checkouts. So far, and much less egregiously, legal publishers have for the most part been sticking to a similar, increasingly anachronistic model: selling one eBook at a time, to be checked out by one reader at a time, and which can’t be recalled if needed by someone else before it comes due.

One of the most important features of digital information is that it is not a scarce resource. In a physical library, a book must occupy its place on the shelf and can only be checked out by one reader at once.  But eBooks aren’t scarce resources – everyone in the organization could read an eBook without affecting anyone else’s ability to view it.

So publishers confront a choice: do we license eBooks the same way we sell print books (or “pBooks,” as Joe Hodnicki calls them) – or do we create entirely new business models that reflect the abundant nature of digital eBooks?

The design of our eBook readers is skeuomorphic. Must our eBooks be skeuomorphic as well?

On Monday, July 15 at the AALL Annual Meeting in Seattle, CRIV is hosting (and I’ll be moderating) a conversation about this topic with some of the leading thinkers about the future of legal publishing.  It’s session E1: Off the Page and Beyond the Book: New Models for Buying and Selling Legal Information.

The presentation is being coordinated by Todd Melnick, Associate Library for Public Services at Fordham University School of Law, and the panel includes Jean O’Grady, Director of Research Services and Libraries at DLA Piper; Jason Wilson, Vice President of Jones McClure Publishing; and Scott Meiser Senior Director of Research Information at LexisNexis.

Many eBook publishers face the daunting task of transitioning from a print business to electronic, and recent experience with newspapers, music publishers, and movies suggest that this will be a major disruption of the traditional business.  Of course, publishers will need to protect their businesses and their authors. But this argues not for porting the business of the past into the future.  It means creating business models for the future of legal information.

Just because we call our digital files “books” doesn’t mean that we use them, or price them, or license them like paper books. As Oliver Wendell Homes said, “We must think things not words, or at least we must constantly translate our words into the facts for which they stand, if we are to keep to the real and the true.”

President Obama’s Executive Order–Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information

On May 9, President Obama issued an executive order designed to make “open and machine readable” the default state of government information. A crucial raw material of democracy, i.e. government information, will be free and open to anyone.  Entrepreneurs will organize it in novel and useful ways and resell it with added value.  Non-profits and activists will look for ways to use it to help empower and liberate ordinary citizens. Law librarians ought to be in the vanguard of these efforts. The Executive Order is available here.